The European Union’s historic decision to ban all new fossil-fuelled cars and vans by 2035 is being hailed as a win for the climate, but equity issues and manufacturing headwinds loom.
Praising the decision as a “landmark deal for climate,” Brussels-based Transport & Environment (T&E) noted that the vehicles subject to the ban are currently responsible for 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.
- Concise headlines. Original content. Timely news and views from a select group of opinion leaders. Special extras.
- Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
- The Weekender: The climate news you need.
“It’s 125 years since Rudolf Diesel revolutionized engine efficiency, but lawmakers have decided the next chapter will be written by the cleaner, better, electric vehicle,” said Julia Poliscanova, T&E’s senior director for vehicles and e-mobility.
“For the planet and human health, that can’t come fast enough.”
That it took EU members just 15 months to agree on the combustion engine ban is something of a surprise, Politico writes. “Previous EU efforts to regulate incremental improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency standards dragged on for years, with acrimonious lobbying and demands for exemptions and special conditions for everything from sports cars to SUVs.”
Intense lobbying was part of the mix this time, too, with France pushing to save plug-in hybrids, Italy seeking to protect its “luxury super cars,” and Germany’s liberal Free Democrats, who hold the finance and transport ministry files in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government, fighting alongside automakers like Renault and Volkswagen to have a loophole for e-fuels included in the deal.
Synthesized using carbon dioxide and hydrogen, e-fuels can be burned in traditional combustion engines, but are very expensive and energy-intensive to produce. Politico notes that the German Greens, who control the economy, climate, and environment ministries, together with Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, outmanoeuvered German finance minister Christian Lindner’s bid to secure the e-fuel loophole.
Proponents of e-fuels remain vocal post-deal. Jens Gieseke, a conservative member of the European Parliament from Germany, said the streets of Europe could come to resemble Havana’s in their superfluity of “vintage” cars, since only the rich will be able to afford electric ones.
T&E is also urging the EU to address equity concerns. “Subsidized leasing schemes, like the one promised by the French government, will also be needed to make electric cars more accessible.”
Critics of the EU ban fear it will leave the continent’s car manufacturers uncompetitive with China-based brands like BYD and Great Wall, both of which are “aimed squarely” at the European market. “The new entrants have solid access to batteries—China is the world leader in cell production—and don’t have to shoulder the costs associated with transitioning a standing work force away from building combustion engines,” writes Politico.