The European Parliament voted on February 14 to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines beginning in 2035.
The ultimate permission must still be granted by the Council of the European Union, but this is unacceptable to Germany, according to Volker Wissing, Germany’s minister of transport.
“Obviously, the decision to put the brakes on the European Union at this stage is unusual. Typically, the co-legislators – Parliament and the Council – reach an agreement. This has happened already in October. Usually, the proposal is adopted with no additional objectives introduced,” Marten Kokk, the Estonian ambassador to the EU, said.
The Greens and the liberal FDP (Free Democratic Party), Germany’s two smaller parties, are at war over cars causing a major rift within the government coalition. Liberal Wissing supports an exemption for synthetic e-fuels, whereas the Greens oppose it.
These fuels are chemically identical to gasoline and diesel, but they are produced by capturing carbon from the atmosphere. This is intended to offset the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by combustion.
“E-fuels, separate from this specific agreement, will allow for emissions reductions in the transport sector. Compared to fossil fuels, there is a significant difference. Replacing fossil fuels first with e-fuels and then switching to electric vehicles would be a reasonable transition,” Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure of Estonia Riina Sikkut (SDE) said.
Heavy-duty trucks and agricultural machinery, Sikkut said, could be still using e-fuels. However, Estonia has backed the current plan as it is and will not abandon it.
“I am not aware of Estonia joining a blocking minority at the moment. We support the adoption of the agreement that has already been reached,” Sikkut said.
The German government is currently in a two-day meeting, visited on Sunday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Although it has not yet been announced, it is likely that the Germans will eventually agree to the current plan.
Presumably on the promise that the issue of e-fuels will be addressed when the plan to phase out combustion engines in 2026 is reevaluated. However, if the Germans continue to oppose the prohibition, the European Parliament will be forced to reconsider the matter.