EU countries’ energy ministers are set to give final approval on Tuesday to the bloc’s legislation to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars in 2035, after Germany granted an exemption for cars running on e-fuels.
The vote comes three weeks after Germany’s transport ministry lodged a last-minute protest against the law, threatening to derail the EU’s main policy of bringing cars in line with climate change targets.
The European Commission struck a deal with Germany over the weekend to resolve the dispute, by assuring that only combustion engine cars running on e-fuel would be exempt from the 2035 ban.
EU officials said most countries were likely to back the law on Tuesday, which would allow it to be implemented. Italy and Poland are set to protest, with Romania and Bulgaria expected to stay away.
EU law will require all new cars sold to have zero CO2 emissions from 2035, and 55 percent less CO2 emissions from 2030 versus 2021 levels.
The policy was expected to make it impossible to sell combustion engine cars in the EU from 2035. But the exemption won by Germany offers a potential lifeline for conventional vehicles – although e-fuels are not yet mass-produced.
E-fuel is produced by synthesizing hydrogen produced using captured CO2 emissions and CO2-free electricity. They are considered carbon neutral because the CO2 released during fuel combustion is balanced by the CO2 removed from the atmosphere to produce the fuel.
Transport accounts for about a quarter of EU emissions. New cars have an average lifetime of 15 years – so the EU says sales of new CO2-emitting cars must end in 2035 to comply with the bloc’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Porsche and Mazda are among the proponents of e-fuel. Other carmakers including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Ford are betting on battery-electric vehicles to decarbonise, and they urged EU countries not to hold back their 2035 phase-out.
EU energy ministers are also expected to extend a voluntary target to reduce their gas use by 15 per cent for 12 months, to help prepare for the next winter with Russian gas shortages .
Some EU officials expect ministers to tackle a dispute over whether nuclear power should count towards the EU’s renewable energy targets – a question that has divided countries and is at the heart of the EU’s main renewable policy. threatening delay.