Actually, the end of combustion engines in the EU is as good as decided. Only the final approval of the EU states is still pending – usually a formality. But now Minister of Transport Wissing opens the keg again.
The FDP, headed by Transport Minister Volker Wissing, is fighting against the end of new cars with combustion engines in the EU from 2035. Wissing threatened on Tuesday that Germany would not be able to agree to a compromise that had already been reached at EU level. The FDP insists that cars with combustion engines will continue to be registered after 2035 – if they fill up with so-called e-fuels.
Wissing said in Berlin that the EU Commission had to deliver and keep promises. Combustion engines will be approved after 2035 if they can be shown to be fueled with synthetic fuels. The Commission should make a corresponding regulation proposal. Otherwise, Germany will not agree to the vote in the Council of EU States planned for Tuesday next week.
Explosives for the traffic light coalition
Wissing emphasized that one would not decide to stop combustion engines and then rely on the “principle of hope”. If there are different opinions in the traffic light coalition, Germany must abstain, this would have “corresponding effects”.
Negotiators from the EU states and the European Parliament agreed in October that no new cars with combustion engines would be allowed to be registered in the EU from 2035. The European Parliament approved the agreement two weeks ago. The approval of the Council of the EU states is still pending and is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Actually, it’s a formality. Without German approval, however, the required majority could shake – and the EU states would have to negotiate again with the European Parliament about the combustion engine exit. However, according to EU circles, it is unclear whether the project would actually tip over without the German yes.
Wissing’s statements also contain explosives for the traffic light coalition in Berlin. A spokesman for Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) said that Germany had already approved the outcome of the negotiations with Parliament at ambassador level in November. “This approval was coordinated with the other departments.” The text, which is now to be confirmed, is unchanged. “Germany also has European responsibility here.”
The FDP is opening the barrel again, doesn’t just want to rely on electromobility and insists on being open to technology. Specifically, it is about “e-fuels”. These are synthetic fuels that are produced from hydrogen and other gases with the help of electricity.
E-fuels were already a sticking point in June 2022 when the EU states were fighting over their position on the EU Commission’s legislative proposal. At that time, too, there was an abstention from Berlin when the EU countries voted because the traffic lights were divided. After a public dispute, Berlin finally signaled its approval – albeit under one condition: the EU Commission’s commitment to presenting a proposal on how only vehicles fueled with climate-friendly fuels such as e-fuels can be approved after 2035.
But that’s exactly what’s wrong now. The responsible commissioner, Frans Timmermans, recently made it clear in the “Bild am Sonntag” how cautious his appetite for e-fuels is. When asked what speaks against combustion engines using e-fuels and whether he is afraid of innovation and competition, he said: “No, I’m not afraid, but we must not force our car industry to develop different technologies at the same time. ” The EU must say where to go. “The USA and China don’t make e-fuels either – they’re not stupid.”
So when will the EU Commission’s proposal on synthetic fuels come out? A spokesman for the authority only referred to Timmerman’s statements from June 2022. At the time, he had emphasized that the right to initiate legislation rested with the EU Commission.
Environmental organizations criticized Wissing. The ecological traffic club VCD spoke of a backward-looking ideology. Traffic expert Michael Müller-Görnert said it was absurd that Wissing wanted to force the EU to recognize new e-fuel cars as emission-free. These cars needed several times the energy of a purely electric drive. “Minister Wissing rides a dead horse.” BUND traffic expert Jens Hilgenberg said that the use of electricity-based fuels in cars is expensive and inefficient in relation to the direct use of electricity, but would not be prevented by the upcoming EU regulation in its current form.
Greenpeace: “E-fuels are energy wasters”
Greenpeace accuses Wissing of risking the German government’s reputation in the EU. “What the EU Commission and Parliament have decided and even the car manufacturers have long since accepted, Transport Minister Wissing does not want to admit: e-fuels are energy wasters,” said traffic expert Benjamin Stephan. If Wissing wants to ensure the future viability of the industry and the climate goals in transport, he should advocate a consistent restructuring of the automotive industry.
At least the traffic light coalition agreed on legal changes to e-fuels for Germany. In the future, these should be allowed to be sold and refueled freely and in their pure form at all petrol stations. FDP faction leader Christian Dürr spoke of a breakthrough in terms of climate protection. “So in future it will be possible in Germany for normal combustion cars to be refueled with climate-neutral fuels. Until now, that was not legally possible.”
But here, too, the reading of the FDP and the Greens differs. Green party leader Katharina Dröge was far more reserved. So far, the use of e-fuels or so-called paraffinic fuels up to the admixture limit of around 26 percent has been possible: “Now we have agreed on a technical adjustment that allows them to be placed on the market in their pure form.”