There’s an update to the story on the 2035 EU ban on ICE engines, which was due to sweep away forever the idea of burning fuel inside a car to make it move. To bring you up to speed if you’ve not been glued to news reports, the vote on banning all new vehicles with a combustion engine being sold within the EU was a whisker away from happening before a last-minute intervention by Germany's caped crusader, Volker Wissing. This caught the EU Commission by surprise, on the basis that parliament had agreed the law last year and it was seen as a dead cert.
The German proposal, which has apparently earned the backing of Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, was to underline a firm commitment to permitting ICE cars to be sold if they run on synthetic e-fuels after 2035. There had been a tacit acknowledgement of the technology previously, but no definitive agreement. Now, in the run-up to the latest EU summit, Reuters claims to have seen a draft proposal that would allow for the creation of a new type of vehicle category in the European Union for cars that can only run on carbon-neutral fuels. How do you do that?
What the Commission is proposing is that to qualify for this new, post-2035 definition, the engine must be able to distinguish CO2-neutral fuels from fossil fuels, which would mean that anyone popping into their nearest petrol station for a quick splash and dash would discover a warning message along the lines of ‘up with this I will not put’ and nothing much else. Needless to say, this isn’t going down well in Germany. As the Reuter’s story suggests, ‘it would largely force automakers to develop new engines’ - on the basis that synthetic fuel and the stuff made from dinosaurs are, by design, pretty similar.
In a bid to keep the conversation constructive and moving in the right direction, Wissing hasn’t rejected the proposal; he’s merely suggested it needs some tweaks. The parties on both sides are aiming to secure an agreement before things get spectacularly messy, although one EU official told Reuters earlier in the week that ‘any proposal on registering e-fuel cars would only be made after the combustion engine phaseout law was finally adopted.’ Which suggests that there's only so much ground they're willing to give. The European car industry will be looking on with bated breath. So will we.