We will find a way to save the car engine – POLITICO

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As for the future of the internal combustion engine, Germany has again got its way.

The European Commission and Germany’s transport ministry announced a deal on Saturday morning that would oblige the EU executive to find a legal way to allow the sale of new built-in-engine cars that run exclusively on synthetic e-fuels , even after a mandate goes into effect that the sale of only zero-emission vehicles from 2035.

“We have reached an agreement with Germany on the future use of e-fuels in cars,” said Frans Timmermans, head of the European Commission’s Green Deal. Twitter. “We will now work to set CO2 standards for cars as soon as possible.”

The deal sparked a row over car legislation that was nearly agreed until Germany, along with a small band of allies, slammed the brakes just days before the formal final approval of a law that is the centerpiece of the EU’s green agenda.

Timmermans said the Commission would “follow quickly” with “legal action” to turn a non-binding annex to the law, originally introduced at the urging of European carmaker Germany, into a concrete solution that would allow new vehicles to run on e- drive mail. fuels, which do emit some CO2, that will be sold after 2035.

As a first step, the Commission has agreed to include a new category of electric-only vehicles within the existing Euro 6 rulebook for cars and then integrate that classification into the controversial CO2 standards legislation that will phase out sales in 2035 for new combustion engine vehicles.

Under the terms of Timmermans’ Chief of Cabinet Diederik Samsom’s final deal, seen by POLITICO, the Commission will reopen the text of the motorcycle ban law if EU lawmakers succeed in introducing a technical annex that would allow for e-mails. stop email. fuels in addition to the agreed CO2 standards. Reopening the text of the proposed law is a move fundamentally opposed by the European Parliament and green-thinking countries.

The crux of the stalemate was Germany’s demand for binding legal language that would ensure that the Commission would find a way to meet Berlin’s demands, even if the European Parliament or the courts rejected any amendments or legal annexes to Germany’s zero-emission legislation. 2035 would block. coverage of cars and vans.

In the statement, Samsom promised that the Commission will publish its full proposal for e-fuels this autumn as a so-called delegated act. In practice, this means that the original 2035 legislation will be passed initially – giving the European Commission a crucial victory – but it sets up a future battle over the technical additions needed to satisfy Berlin.

“The law that 100 percent of cars sold after 2035 must be zero-emission will be voted unchanged next Tuesday,” said Pascal Canfin, the French liberal lawmaker who led the dossier in the meeting. “Parliament will decide in due course on the Commission’s future proposals on e-fuels.”

Engine endgame

The deal means energy ministers can sign the original proposal for 2035 at a meeting on Tuesday, as Berlin now has assurances that its demands will be met. Beforehand, EU ambassadors will review the bilateral deal between Brussels and Berlin on Monday, an EU diplomat said.

The agreement caps a decade of German backsliding on EU car emissions regulations.

In 2013, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel belatedly stepped in to water down previous iterations of the auto emissions standards legislation, bringing about tweaks critical to the country’s behemoth auto industry.

The deal means Germany has effectively dropped its last-minute opposition to the car engine ban law Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Since the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, most automakers have shifted their investment to electric vehicles, but some industry interests, particularly high-end automakers such as Porsche and the German web of manufacturers of internal combustion engine parts, have attempted to free traditional gas guzzlers from the clutches of a de facto EU sales ban.

Finding a final solution for e-fuels in the 2035 legislation will take several months as technical standards have not yet been clarified for establishing a “robust and tamper-resistant” system for the sale of fuel-only cars on synthetic alternatives to gasoline and diesel, according to Samsom’s statement.

The timeline is already clear in Berlin’s perspective. “We want the process to be completed by autumn 2024,” said Germany’s transport ministry, which is led by the country’s Free Democratic Party. The FDP, the youngest in Germany’s three-member governing coalition, wanted a firm legal language to guarantee a loophole for e-fuels, which could theoretically be carbon neutral, but do not normally comply with emissions legislation , since they still do. emit exhaust gases.

With the popularity of the FDP declining, the car policy spat with Brussels has been a hot topic of conversation in the German media in recent weeks. A survey reports that 67 percent of respondents oppose the motorcycle ban legislation. In the run-up to the national elections at the end of 2025, the FDP is focusing on driver-friendly policies, such as e-fuels, new road construction initiatives and a block on the implementation of a national speed limit on highways, to raise awareness.

Market watchers don’t expect e-fuels to offer much as an alternative to the mass market electric vehicle, given that they are expensive to produce and do not exist in commercial quantities today. A study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research reports that even if all global e-fuel production were allocated to German consumers, by 2035 production would only meet one-tenth of national demand in the aviation, maritime and chemical sectors .

“E-fuels are an expensive and hugely inefficient distraction from the electric transformation facing European automakers,” says Julia Poliscanova of the Transport & Environment green group.

Car politics

Despite not being on the formal agenda, the topic dominated discussions on the sidelines of this week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels. A deal between Brussels and Berlin was not finalized until 9pm on Friday, hours after leaders left the EU capital, before being formally announced on social media early Saturday.

“The way is clear,” said German Transport Minister Volker Wissing when announcing the agreement. “We have secured opportunities for Europe by keeping key options open for climate-neutral and affordable mobility.”

The deal means Germany has effectively dropped its last-minute opposition to the car engine ban law, leaving a blocking minority of Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, which had put up a roadblock to its final ratification by the ministers of the deal that was reached last October between the three EU institutions.

It remains unclear whether Italy’s attempts to find a separate biofuels solution – personally promoted by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the summit – have also succeeded. However, without Berlin’s support, Rome has no way of blocking the legislation.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing | Maya Hiti/Getty Images

Reactions to the Commission developing a tailor-made solution to otherwise agreed legislation for its largest Member State have been generally negative, with many claiming that the e-fuels issue is a diversion.

“The opening for e-fuels does not mean a significant change for the transformation to electric cars,” says Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, professor at the Center for Automotive Research in Duisburg. He said the Commission’s dealmaking raised “new investment uncertainties” that undermined the bloc’s efforts to catch up with China, the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles.

Still, most are just happy that the row of internal combustion engines has ended for the time being.

“It’s good that this impasse is over,” said German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, who supported the original 2035 agreement without any reference to e-fuels. “Anything else would have seriously damaged both confidence in European procedures and Germany’s reliability in European politics,” the minister said in a statement.


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