Discussions, dissent, and dissection of the European Union’s proposal to cease combustion vehicle sales from 2035 are ongoing at the end of March, 2023. It’s no wonder, either, since there are only 12 years (give or take a few months) before that deadline. No matter what ultimately happens, it’s clear that some action needs to be agreed upon so that member nations can move forward.
On March 13, 2023, ministers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia all met to discuss plans that would allow some combustion vehicles to remain. Immediately prior to this meeting, Germany had surprised many when it rejected the EU’s proposed combustion engine ban on March 7, because the proposal as written did not allow for the possibility of synthetic fuels (also called e-fuels).
While the pace can often be glacial with regard to watching legislation pass from governmental desk to governmental desk, on March 21, Reuters obtained an exclusive look at a new EU draft proposal that would allow an exception to the 2035 combustion ban for cars that use e-fuels. This draft legislation apparently came together in under a week, which is kind of remarkable in itself.
According to the draft legislation, an entirely new category of vehicle would be created to accommodate this change. This category would include cars that could only run on carbon-neutral fuels, and would be required to incorporate technology that would disallow them from using other types of fuel. It’s not clear what steps would need to be taken in order to make this proposal actionable, but it certainly appears to be a step toward bringing Germany and the other nations back into the fold on advancing a shared mission of carbon neutrality.
Reducing and eliminating carbon emissions is in all of our best interests. Climate change is real. You don’t need me to tell you that. While electric vehicles have the potential to help us reach those goals, a lack of carbon emissions at the tailpipe doesn’t eliminate the carbon costs of materials sourcing, production, and transportation.
If e-fuels can legitimately be part of the solution, without massive amounts of greenwashing to make them appear more environmentally-friendly than they actually are, then tackling the problem from more than one angle seems like a good idea. These are some big ‘if’ scenarios, but you have to start somewhere or you’ll never start at all.
On March 24, 2023, German transport minister Volker Wissing expressed optimism that his country’s dispute with the EU over the ban would soon be resolved. Although a discussion of the ban is not on the agenda for an official EU summit scheduled for March 24, it’s possible that such a discussion may occur, says Reuters.