Internal combustion engines off: EU Council of Ministers leaves back door for internal combustion engines

Unlike the EU Commission and Parliament, the environment and climate ministers of the EU did not explicitly vote for a ban on internal combustion engines in new cars.

 Combustion engine off: EU Council of Ministers leaves back door for combustion engines

After about 15 After hours of negotiations, the EU environment and climate ministers in Luxembourg agreed on a position on CO₂ emission standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Unlike the EU Commission and EU Parliament, the ministers only plan to reduce CO₂ emissions to 0 by 2035; there is no explicit mention of a ban on combustion engines. These may continue to be approved if they use synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels.

During the negotiations, the position of Germany, whose Environment Minister Steffi Lemke had previously said, in favor of a ban on combustion engines, was particularly important wanting to vote. This put her at odds with the coalition partner FDP. Negotiations within the federal government were still going on during the session in Luxembourg. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) then announced on Tuesday evening: “Vehicles with combustion engines may also be newly registered after 2035 if they can be proven to be operated only with e-fuels. This clears the way for approval in the EU Council of Environment Ministers and the ban the combustion engine off the table.”

No more incentive mechanisms from 2030

The EU Council of Ministers also decided that the EU Commission should review and evaluate the progress made in reducing emissions in 2026 achieved on the way to 100 percent emissions reduction. It should include technological developments, including plug-in hybrid technology, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers. In the interim step, the Commission should also assess whether the transition to zero emissions is sustainable and is taking place in a socially just way.

By 2030, the CO₂ emissions of new cars should have fallen to 55 percent and light commercial vehicles to 50 percent it further in the message. The “regulatory incentive mechanisms” – i.e. purchase premiums and other benefits – for emission-free and low-emission vehicles are to expire by the year. At the same time, it should be ensured that an adequate infrastructure for alternative fuels is built up.

Negotiations with the EU Parliament are pending

Now that the EU ministers have now expressed their position on this topic and others Having determined the areas of the “Fit for 55” package, negotiations can now begin with the European Parliament in order to draw up final legal texts. Other topics were emissions trading in the EU, a fund for the social climate, land use and forestry.

Just under three weeks ago, the EU Parliament voted to ban new cars with combustion engines from 2035 onwards. The FDP feared that a radical ban could cost jobs, and it would also be better to be “open to technology” so as not to stifle innovations.

E-fuels are synthesized from hydrogen and CO₂ using a lot of electricity. Porsche, for example, is investing in a production facility in Chile. In a study, the organization Transport and Environment (T&E) showed that cars with e-fuels are less environmentally friendly than electric cars.

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