13 Jan 2022, 13:43
Benjamin Wehrmann

E-fuels no solution for cleaning up existing car fleet – new German transport minister

Der Tagesspiegel

The existing combustion engine vehicle fleet in Germany cannot be made climate-neutral by switching to synthetic e-fuels, new transport minister Volker Wissing has said. In an interview with newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, the minister from the Free Democrats (FDP) said “there won’t be enough e-fuels available in the foreseeable future to power the fleet of currently registered passenger cars with combustion engines.” This is in stark contrast to the FDP’s election campaign promise to promote the use of e-fuels in existing cars. “We will predominantly need e-fuels for aviation,“ Wissing said, arguing that different energy carriers should be deployed where their use is most efficient. “This doesn’t mean there won’t be any further innovations in the future,” he explained, adding that his task was to resolve problems at hand with the technology that is currently available. “We can drive in a carbon-neutral way using e-mobility,” Wissing said.

In order to achieve the country’s target of 15 million fully electric cars on the road by 2030 both the German government and its carmakers must make great strides, as customers will ultimately decide which type and brand of vehicle they buy. “The switch to an e-car must be seen as a step forward,” the transport minister said, adding that charging infrastructure, costs and the attractiveness of the vehicles themselves need to be improved. “Some are still waiting to see which propulsion technology will prevail. But if you look at EU regulation you can see that e-mobility has won the race for a long time now,” he explained. While fossil fuels look set to become more and more expensive in the future, the government would ensure that charging e-cars remains affordable. “That’s why I can only encourage everyone to switch to CO2-neutral propulsion systems.”  

The car industry has called for a "mixed technology" approach with e-cars and e-fuels in the decarbonisation of the transport sector, arguing this could deliver significant CO2 emissions reduction while simultaneously preserving tens of thousands of jobs in the sector. Before the election, Wissing's FDP consistently advocated for including e-fuels in mobility transition plans and the new coalition treaty stopped short of naming an end date for combustion engine technology.

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