The long way to the combustion engine off

The long way to the combustion engine off

DThe drama surrounding the 2035 combustion ban is over. As early as next Tuesday, the energy ministers of the EU states can finally accept the new CO2 specifications for cars. So far, the topic is not on the agenda at all. But the ambassadors of the EU states should catch up on Monday morning at 10 a.m. They had only suspended their preparatory meeting for the Council of Ministers early Friday evening in order to be able to react quickly.

The agreement between EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Transport Minister Volker Wissing was already apparent at the time. Actually, the European Parliament and EU states had already agreed in principle on the combustion engine end last autumn. At the beginning of March, however, Wissing prevented the ministers’ planned vote in an unprecedented and heavily criticized blockade at the last minute.

had since Timmermans and Wissing negotiated intensively, always exchanged new proposals, letters and e-mails. Then, on Friday morning, the commission presented a final proposal, in which Timmermans moved a long way towards Wissing.

Wissing: “Europe remains technology-neutral”

The mood there fluctuated between relief and jubilation. At 2 p.m. Wissing would make a statement, it was said quickly. But the Federal Ministry of Transport wanted to be absolutely sure. Instead of the hoped-for agreement, Wissing only announced that he was confident. However, “final legal questions” would have to be examined.

By late evening, the lawyers were sure. “The way is clear: Europe remains technology-neutral,” Wissing tweeted on Saturday morning at 10:01 a.m. “We have an agreement,” Timmermans said three minutes later. Both sides initially kept a low profile on the details. The European Commission will present a statement to the ministers on Tuesday in which they will explain everything else, the authority said. Wissing was at least a little more specific.

A backdoor for e-fuels

As a first step, according to his tweet, a new vehicle category for cars fueled with demonstrably climate-neutral synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels, is to be created. Then these are to be “integrated” into the CO2 specifications for cars. In other words: the CO2 specifications for cars will initially be adopted exactly as planned. This means that the ban on combustion engines will come into force in 2035. Afterwards, however, a back door is to be created that will create a future for combustion engines powered by e-fuels.

For the European Commission and the majority of EU states and the European Parliament, which – it must not be forgotten – are all in favor of phasing out combustion engines, the worst has thus been prevented. That would have been if the EU the law on the CO2 requirements for cars should have been reopened. That would have been extremely difficult legally and would have jeopardized the passage of the entire, much larger EU climate package.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP)

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP)

Image: dpa

In the end, even Wissing never asked for such a step. He wanted something completely different from the start: that the Commission – as at least according to the understanding of the FDP, made a firm commitment in the fall – to prevent the complete end of the combustion engine in 2035 in another way.

The Federal Ministry of Transport explained what this should look like in concrete terms in an email sent to the Timmermans office manager on Thursday evening. The agreement that has now been reached, according to Brussels, is largely based on this, which is why it is worth taking a closer look.

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