There’s been much ado about the European Union’s proposed 2035 internal combustion engine ban. We first reported on the initiative in July, 2021. Since then, the bill has worked its way through the E.U.’s bureaucratic maze, inching its way toward approval on March 7, 2023.
In an unexpected turn of events, Germany refused to approve the proposal due to the lack of synthetic-fuel-powered vehicle exemptions. However, the commission should have seen this resistance building over the past few years.
In July, 2022, the E.U. declined Italy’s request to postpone the restrictive legislation until 2040. Though the motion was overruled, member states Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia supported Italy’s objections. Despite that deflating loss, the E.U. stated that it would consider biofuels for the 2035 ban as a consolation prize.
So, when such a concession didn’t factor into the bill’s final form, German Transport Minister Volker Wissing refused to acquiesce.
"We need e-fuels as there is no alternative if we want to operate our vehicle fleet in a climate-neutral way," Wissing told German outlet ARD. "Whoever is serious about climate-neutral mobility must keep all technological options open and also use them. I don’t understand this fight against the car and why people want to ban some technologies."
Following the bill's rejection, ministers from Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic met on Monday, March 13, 2023. The contingent discussed potential changes to the plan, which puts them in direct opposition to the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria, and Ireland—all countries that back the proposal.
As a fan of both electric- and combustion-powered vehicles, the German-led faction makes a good point. While no current biofuel-based vehicles have attained emissions-free status yet, eliminating that possibility provides little to no upside. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) feels the same.
"At the end of the day, it is all about slashing emissions, not about getting rid of a technology,” stated the ACEA. “As the current energy crisis demonstrates, diversification is essential to improve Europe’s resilience."
In the end, the two sides will have to come back to the table and hammer out a compromise. There's certainly been much ado about the 2035 ban, but we’re hopeful it won’t all be for nothing.