Germany and the European Commission said on Saturday that an agreement had been reached on the agreed phase-out of combustion engine vehicles.
To the chagrin of some in Brussels, consensus on the issue has been held up by opposition from within Germany’s ruling coalition government.
What was announced?
The agreement ends the dispute over whether manufacturers could continue to produce cars using so-called e-fuels after 2035. It would allow cars to be registered after that date as long as any fuel they use is strictly carbon neutral.
“We have found an agreement with Germany on the future use of e-fuels in cars,” wrote European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on Twitter.
“We will now work to ensure that CO2 standards for cars [sic] are adopted as soon as possible and the Commission will quickly follow the necessary legal steps,” he wrote.
German Transport Minister Volker Wissing, who promoted the amendment, wrote that “vehicles with internal combustion engines can still be re-registered after 2035 if they only use CO2-neutral fuels”.
What was behind the dispute?
Germany is home to a large automotive industry that would have to implement EU legislation.
EU plans to only allow the production of zero-emission cars after 2035 had to be put on hold after Germany raised last-minute objections and pushed through to allow e-fuel vehicles to be registered.
Wissing and his neoliberal Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition, have spearheaded efforts to revise the deal, pushing back on Brussels’ demands for a quick deal.
As late as Friday, the German Ministry of Transport and the European Commission were reportedly still exchanging letters and proposals to reach a compromise.
In his speech after Friday’s EU summit in Brussels, Scholz said that “quite soon” there will be an agreement on the dispute.
Germany’s economy and climate minister, Robert Habeck, said any further delay would risk problems within the tripartite coalition, which also includes the environmentalist Greens and Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Critics of the e-fuels proposal argued that e-fuels are very expensive and energy intensive to produce. Using such fuels in an internal combustion engine car requires about five times more renewable electricity than running a battery electric car.