The European Union in Tuesday approved plans to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars in member countries by 2035, after Germany successfully fought for a loophole for vehicles burning e-fuels.
The proposed law will require all new passenger cars sold in EU countries to produce zero CO2 emissions from 2035, ramping up from a 2030 target of 50% lower emissions from 2021 levels.
When the 2035 timeline was proposed in July 2021, it was expected to lead to a total ban on sales of new cars with combustion engines. But in recent weeks Germany led a campaign to include an exemption for vehicles using e-fuels, also known as synthetic fuels. Those fuels currently aren’t being produced in significant quantities, but they are seen by some automakers as a way to keep internal-combustion cars on the road under carbon-emissions bans.
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Proponents of e-fuels claim they are carbon neutral because, while burning them produces carbon emissions just like conventional fossil fuels, they are made with carbon captured from the atmosphere, along with green hydrogen generated through electrolysis.
A deal between the European Commission and Germany to include an e-fuels loophole, which EU climate policy head Frans Timmermans confirmed Saturday, appeared crucial to getting Germany’s approval of the 2035 timeline. The Commission plans to release a proposal on how the e-fuels rule will be implemented this fall. It’s expected to include a requirement that e-fuel cars can’t be filled with gasoline or diesel, according to Reuters.
The European Commission also released new guidelines for charging infrastructure, calling for 1.3 kw of power for each EV in every EU member country, and fast-charging stations of at least 150 kw output placed every 37.2 miles along trans-European highways from 2025 onwards. This closely parallels the U.S. plan of four 150-kw chargers, every 50 miles.
The Commission also set a plan in motion for heavy-duty EV charging and for hydrogen infrastructure, but all of these measures still need to be passed by the European Parliament and Council, with a transition period before implementation.
In the U.S., California took the lead in 2020 with a proposed ban of all new internal-combustion vehicles, except for plug-in hybrids. Various other U.S. states have followed, including a bloc of West Coast states, but not all states following California’s emissions rules, which are stricter than federal rules, agree with the 2035 gas-car ban.