Germany's transport minister, Volker Wissing, announced on Tuesday that the country will not support the European Union's (EU) plan to ban the sale of new cars with combustion engines by

2035, as Germany failed to obtain assurances from the EU's executive Commission for an exemption on synthetic fuels. The plan, which is part of the EU's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, requires carmakers to reduce new car emissions by 55% in 2030 relative to 2021 levels, and by 100% in 2035, effectively prohibiting the sale of new cars powered by hydrocarbon-based fuels like petroleum.

However, some EU member states, including Germany, have requested an exemption for cars powered by synthetic fuels or e-fuels. They argue that e-fuels can be produced using renewable energy and carbon captured from the air, resulting in a lower impact on the climate than fossil fuels. Germany has suggested that the EU Commission propose a regulation that allows combustion engines to be registered after 2035 if they can be fueled with synthetic fuels.

Wissing stressed the need for synthetic fuels to be produced in large amounts as soon as possible to meet the demand from cars sold before 2035, as well as from heavy goods vehicles, ships, and planes. The libertarian Free Democratic Party, to which Wissing belongs, supports the use of synthetic fuels, while the environmentalist Green party favors a complete ban on combustion engines.

The debate over synthetic fuels has created a rift in Germany's government. The center-right Union bloc, Germany's main opposition party, also opposes the EU-wide ban on combustion engine vehicles, arguing that it would harm the country's auto industry. Critics of synthetic fuels contend that battery-electric technology is a better fit for passenger cars and that synthetic fuels should be used only where no other option is feasible, such as aviation.

Greenpeace's Benjamin Stephan stated that studies show that the same amount of electricity can take a battery-powered vehicle five times further than a car powered by e-fuels. He believes that e-fuels are an inefficient and expensive fuel that won't play a role in powering new cars in 2035. Stephan argued that it would be better for the German auto industry to invest in electric vehicles.

The EU member states still need to approve the EU's plan to ban new cars with internal combustion engines before it can take effect. Italy has already indicated that it intends to vote against the proposal to ban thermal engine cars. If Germany's coalition government cannot agree on a position, it may have to abstain from voting, potentially throwing the whole EU ban into question.

In conclusion, the debate over the EU's plan to ban new cars with combustion engines by 2035 has highlighted the challenge of balancing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with economic considerations. While e-fuels may be a lower-emission option than fossil fuels, there is a question of whether they are an efficient and cost-effective solution for powering passenger cars. The debate is likely to continue as the EU member states prepare to vote on the proposal. Photo by Fdprlp, Wikimedia commons.