Just when one believes the stake has been driven thru the IC vehicle’s heart; it arises again!
The most dangerous place in European politics right now is between a German and their car.
That’s been underlined yet again this week as Berlin threatens to derail the European Commission’s green transport agenda with a demand to make space for synthetic carbon-based fuels.
Europe’s largest economy, and a growing list of allied countries, are fighting the Commission’s proposal to ban the sale of new polluting cars and vans from 2035. German politicians are leaning on EU policymakers to include a loophole for synthetically produced gasoline called e-fuel — which produces emissions at the tailpipe — alongside electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
It’s an effort to secure a future for the internal combustion engine: the pride of German engineering and the national economy for more than a century. Switching to other technologies would unravel Germany’s competitive advantage built up over decades of refinement and expertise, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line.
Germany and its allies — Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria — are blocking final approval of the EU’s 2035 measure until the Commission puts forward its e-fuel ideas. Together, the countries carry enough wait to block the text from entering into law.
Yes, a car with an internal combustion engine can be sold and used in Europe after 2035 if it runs on carbon-neutral fuel, but the problem is that these cars can run on carbon-neutral fuel only. That means that the industry faces a problem.
The whole attraction of synthetic fuels is that they use hydrocarbons created by capturing carbon dioxide from the air and synthesizing it with green hydrogen. Its chemical makeup is the same as regular gasoline and it functions exactly as regular gasoline would. A regular Porsche 911 has already proved that this is possible. Thus, existing engine technology need not be adapted, and gas stations need make no modifications.
But if this legislation forces synthetic fuel to somehow operate in a unique way so as to prevent the use of non-carbon-neutral fuel, then most of those advantages are nullified. To make e-fuel different from regular fuel undoes years of research and development that was explicitly aimed at making e-fuel work in existing engines.
In a nutshell, this legislation says that the combustion engine can live on, but only if synthetic fuel is different from traditional gas (effectively necessitating a whole new approach to the concept of e-fuels) or the engine itself is unable to run on traditional fuels, which would surely require additional investment in new engine development. Perhaps it could be as simple as developing a sensor that would prevent the car from running if regular gasoline is detected, but again, that requires the synthetic fuel to be noticeably different from regular fuel.
That said, the constant flip-flopping over this debate means that we should take nothing as set in stone just yet.