Berlin and the EU Commission settle disputes over combustion engines


Berlin and the EU Commission settle disputes over combustion engines

Cars, trucks and delivery vehicles drive on the Kaiserdamm in Berlin.

Cars, trucks and delivery vehicles drive on the Kaiserdamm in Berlin.

Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

Agreement after weeks of wrangling: Even after 2035, new cars with combustion engines can be registered. The condition: They can only be refueled with climate-neutral fuel.

Updated: 03/25/2023, 15:34

Brussels/Berlin. After weeks of wrangling about the future of cars with internal combustion engines, the German government has reached an agreement with the EU Commission. “This paves the way for vehicles with combustion engines that only use CO2-neutral fuels to be registered after 2035,” said Transport Minister Volker Wissing in Berlin.

EU Commission Vice Frans Timmermans also wrote on Twitter that an agreement had been reached with Germany on the future use of so-called e-fuels in cars.

According to Wissing, concrete procedural steps and a concrete schedule have been fixed in a binding manner. “We want the process to be completed by autumn 2024.” With the agreement, an important point from the coalition agreement was also implemented.

The European Parliament and EU states had actually already agreed in October that only emission-free new cars may be registered in the EU from 2035. For Germany, however, it is important that new cars with combustion engines that fill up with e-fuels can still be registered afterwards – i.e. climate-neutral artificial fuels that are produced with green electricity. A confirmation of the agreement by the EU states, which was planned for early March, was therefore initially prevented by Germany. Since then, the Federal Ministry of Transport and the EU Commission have been negotiating a compromise. After the agreement, the final vote of all 27 EU countries is to take place next Tuesday.

When the basic agreement was reached in autumn, Germany had negotiated an addition to the agreement, according to which the EU Commission should submit a proposal on how vehicles that are operated exclusively with e-fuels can be approved after 2035. In the EU Commission, the corresponding paragraph was always read in such a way that special vehicles such as ambulances or fire engines should be affected. According to the Berlin interpretation, however, the e-fuel exception should apply to all vehicles.

FDP in Brussels: agreement is a great success

The transport policy spokesman for the FDP in the European Parliament, Jan-Christoph Oetjen, described the agreement as a great success. “The nonsensical blanket ban on combustion engines is therefore off the table.” With this technology-neutral approach, other climate-neutral options are now available in addition to electromobility. “We’re keeping cutting-edge technology and important jobs on the continent.”

Critics complain that the production of e-fuels requires a relatively large amount of energy and that fuels are scarce. They would be needed more urgently in aviation and shipping.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said it was good “that this impasse is over”. Anything else would have severely damaged both confidence in European procedures and in Germany’s reliability in European politics. The automotive industry now has clarity for the switch to electromobility. E-fuels would play an important role. “Especially for those areas that cannot easily switch to efficient electric motors.”

The MEPs of the Greens want to take a close look at the compromise. “We will examine the proposal very carefully, both legally and politically,” announced the spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, Rasmus Andresen. But he also emphasized that it was good that the impasse was finally over.

He also said, with a view to Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP): “Wissing has disgraced the federal government. It’s unbelievable that Chancellor Scholz covered up this chaos for weeks.”

VDA President: Agreement in the interest of the climate

The President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, Hildegard Müller, sees the agreement as a positive signal for climate protection. “We need all climate-friendly technologies to achieve the EU climate targets,” she said. It is therefore in the interests of the climate that Berlin and Brussels have now apparently found an agreement – with a corresponding timetable.

E-mobility remains the key technology for achieving climate targets in transport. However, so-called e-fuels – which refers to artificially produced, climate-neutral fuels – are an important expansion. But Müller also emphasized: “The final details of the agreement are still to be assessed.”

© dpa-infocom, dpa:230325-99-84025/10 (dpa)

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