News
27 Mar 2023, 14:01
Julian Wettengel

EU combustion engine car deal could stand in way of resolute climate policy – govt advisor

Handelsblatt / Clean Energy Wire

The deal between Germany and the European Commission to allow new combustion engine cars after 2035 – if they run exclusively on e-fuels – could upset politicians’ climate policy efforts, economist Veronika Grimm told Handelsblatt. “People could continue to buy combustion cars in the hope of cheap e-fuels,” said the German government advisor. “That could make it very difficult for politicians to pursue resolute climate policy.” She added that scenarios in which e-fuels are a cheap alternative for cars are “hardly conceivable by 2035”, even with optimistic projections for the price of hydrogen. German transport minister Volker Wissing of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) welcomed the agreement. “This will open up important options for the population in the direction of climate-neutral and affordable mobility.” Benjamin Stephan of the environmental NGO Greenpeace’s German group said the “foul compromise” undermined climate action efforts in the transport sector and “hurts Europe.”

After the FDP’s Wissing had blocked the deal last-minute — which led to days of dispute and threatened to undermine EU climate efforts — the European Commission and the German government reached a deal, but details remain unclear. With the German backing, energy ministers are now set to green-light the original legislative proposal to allow only new cars without tailpipe emissions by 2035 on 28 March. The Commission “will follow up swiftly with the necessary legal steps” to deliver on the agreement with Germany, said Commissioner Frans Timmermans.

Most mobility experts do not see a role for e-fuels made from renewables in the car sector, because the technology requires at least five times more energy than using electricity directly in battery electric cars. That makes e-fuels both very expensive and inefficient. Experts agree that green hydrogen – a crucial ingredient in e-fuels – will be a scarce resource for some time and needed for applications without alternative ways to decarbonise, such as industrial processes, aviation and shipping.

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