Germany could break ranks with Europe on petrol and diesel car ban

The German finance minister has rejected a proposal to ban cars with an internal combustion engine, because he advocated the development of synthetic fuels.

A high-ranking member of the German government has suggested that the country will not sign a European Union bill to de facto ban brand new petrol and diesel cars from 2035 unless provisions are made for cars running on synthetic fuel.

The German authorities had previously requested an exemption from the laws for engines powered by synthetic fuels. These so-called ‘eFuels’ would capture CO2 and recycle it into petrol, diesel and jet fuel, without releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere, as is the case with oil-derived fuels.

Two of the country’s largest automakers see eFuels as part of the industry’s future. BMW Group announced in June 2020 it invested $12.5 million ($AUD 18 million) in a start-up that had created a way to make synthetic fuels using solar energy.

in April 2022, Porsche announced it was spending $75 million ($AUD 108 million) to fund research and development of synthetic fuels using wind and solar energy, with plans to build facilities in Chile, the US and Australia. .

Porsche senior executives have previously indicated that they want to keep some variants of the iconic 911 sports car with an internal combustion engine powered by eFuels for the next ten years.

The action group is making the same argument it used to successfully sue the German government in April 2021. At the time, the country’s highest constitutional court ruled that the country’s laws were insufficient to successfully comply with the 2015 Paris accord — of which it is a signatory.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said his government would disagree with the EU’s decision to ban the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

“Noble as the motives are, we don’t know if there are still options for technologies, such as synthetic fuels, that no one has on the agenda today, but which could come into view very quickly at a turning point. in the future,” Lindner said at an industry event.

The proposed law from the European Commission – the executive branch of the EU – sets a 100 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035, effectively limiting vehicles to battery-electric or hydrogen-electric propulsion.

However, Lindner’s threats may simply be a bluff designed to pressure the European Parliament to accept special provisions for synthetic fuels.

The German government consists of a three-party coalition, with Lindner being a member of the pro-business Free Democrats party, while the environmental portfolio is managed by Steffi Lemke of the Greens, who rejected Lindner’s comments in a written statement. Obviously, the coalition had previously agreed to support the ICE ban.

Lindner seemed to soften his stance in a… tweet after the event, writing: “the pending EU decision on fleet limits for cars is not open to technology. However, synthetic fuels are a climate neutral option for the internal combustion engine, which has been around for a long time. We need to save this for our work”.

If the European Commission includes provisions for eFuel-powered ICE vehicles, it could be an environmentally friendly way for developing countries that do not have the ability to quickly build infrastructure to support EVs or hydrogen cars, while also developing long-haul diesel trucks and small sports cars. on the road.

Ben Zachariah is an accomplished writer and motoring journalist from Melbourne, who has worked in the automotive industry for over 15 years. Previously an interstate truck driver, Ben completed his MBA in Finance in early 2021. He is considered an expert in classic car investment.

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