EU wants to pave the way for e-fuels cars

In the dispute over the end of combustion engines, the EU Commission has sent a new proposal to Berlin. Accordingly, there could be a separate category for e-fuels cars from 2035. But is that really the solution?

It’s been going back and forth between Berlin and Brussels for weeks. The question of which vehicles may still be newly registered in the EU after 2035 is being debated. They are facing each other: the Federal Government and the EU Commission. There is the FDP man Volker Wissing, who is fighting for openness to technology and a future of e-fuel vehicles. And there is the Dutchman Frans Timmermans, a very self-confident Vice President of the European Commission. Wissing accuses the Commission of not having kept its promises.

New vehicle category?

The EU Commission has now sent a new proposal to Berlin. It is available to the ARD capital studio. According to this, combustion cars could still be newly registered after 2035 if they are only refueled with CO2-neutral e-fuels. A new vehicle category is to be created for this purpose. The car manufacturers would have to technically ensure that these cars cannot run on petrol or diesel.

The Commission’s proposed draft text states: In the event that regular fuel is refueled, “such vehicles should be able to recognize this and stop starting until they are refueled with CO2-neutral fuels”.

Does that pave the way out of a conflict that has long been about far more than just the future of the combustion engine? Negotiations are ongoing, nothing has been finally decided. There is no sign of white smoke rising. The “Spiegel” reports that the Federal Ministry of Transport has already rejected the compromise proposal. There is no official confirmation for this.

Tedious legislative process

Trust in the reliability of the largest member state in the European Union is also at stake. The background: In a laborious legislative process, the EU had agreed on a compromise, according to which new passenger cars registered after 2035 would no longer be allowed to emit any CO2. At the urging of the FDP, a so-called recital was stated: The EU Commission should make a proposal on how cars powered by e-fuels can have a future in the EU. This was not legally binding.

In November, all 27 EU members agreed to the negotiated compromise – including the recital. In the Berlin Ministry of Transport, growing resentment then built up about what the EU Commission delivered – or rather: did not deliver.

Gross foul

The anger went so far that Germany caused the final vote to be postponed, which actually seemed to be just a formality. Stopping so late is considered a gross foul against the rules of the game under EU legislation. Dissatisfaction with the federal government was clearly noticeable. However, Wissing now has the support of several EU members. These include Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Thursday starts EU summit

Is there a solution in sight now? The further possible procedure is described in an email from the EU Commission to the Ministry of Transport, which is also available to the ARD capital city studio. After the final approval of the previous compromise, the Brussels authorities want to take into account the possible contribution of CO2-neutral fuels to achieving clean mobility and work “without delay” on the implementation of the recital.

The Commission therefore wants to make a proposal “before the summer of 2023” on how pure e-fuel vehicles can be approved without there being any loopholes. After that, another Commission proposal could pave the way for these vehicles after 2035. The Mail speaks of a “limited number of cars outside the scope of regular fleet standards”.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Minister of Transport said: “There are positive trends that are a good basis for further talks.” Minister of State for Europe Anna Lührmann said in Brussels this morning: “I assume that the issue will be resolved before the summit.” The meeting of EU leaders begins Thursday.


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