Considering that EU Member States and the European Parliament had already reached consensus on a sales ban for new combustion engine vehicles from 2035 in October of last year, a vote in the Council of the EU originally scheduled for Tuesday seemed to be a mere formality. Instead, demands made mainly by the German government to exempt engines using synthetic (e-)fuels from the regulation compromised the formal decision.

Synthetic fuels are produced by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide and the result of their combustion can be captured from the atmosphere. These fuels are only considered climate-neutral if the power needed to produce them and their components is generated from renewable sources.

In addition to Germany, countries such as Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic recently also voiced opposition to the plans for a sales ban. With Poland already opposed to the regulation, and Bulgaria opting to abstain, those countries could form a blocking minority within the Council.

To approve it, 15 out of the EU’s 27 Member States, making up at least 65 percent of the EU’s total population, would have to vote in favor of the ban. Germany is the most populous EU country, while Italy is ranked third and Poland fifth. Without Germany’s backing, the achievement of a majority representing 65 percent of the EU’s citizens was unlikely, prompting the postponement of the vote.

The plans to reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions from new vans and cars by 100 percent by 2035 are part of a larger package to tackle climate change – the so-called Fit for 55 package, which in turn is part of the European Green Deal. The EU wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Germany not on board without e-fuel exemption

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing voiced opposition to the sales ban last week, threatening that Berlin would not back it. He argued that the European Commission had not yet followed up with a complementary draft bill on how cars and vans running on climate-neutral fuels could still be registered in the EU after 2035.

After a cabinet meeting, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the federal government was in agreement that it expected the European Commission to make a proposal on how such e-fuels could be used after 2035.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that newly registered combustion vehicles should be an exception to the ban after 2035. “We need this legally secure, clear link between the decision on fleet limits and the possibility of new registrations,” Lindner said. As the combustion engine technology would continue to remain important throughout the world, a car exporter like Germany should retain the expertise needed in this area, he added. He stated that for his party, the liberal FDP, technological openness was a high priority.

Italy and Poland underpin the blockade

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailed the decision to postpone the EU vote on a proposed end to the sale of carbon-emitting petrol and diesel cars from 2035 as “an Italian success.” She said the position of the Italian government “is clear: a fair, sustainable transition must be planned and carried out with care in order to avoid negative repercussions in terms of production and employment.” Meloni continued to state that “it is right to aim for zero CO2 emissions as soon as possible, but states must be left free to take the path that they consider most effective and sustainable. That means not closing the door to paths for clean technologies that are different from electric [vehicles].”

In a statement sent to the representatives of the 27 EU Member States regarding the ban, Italy stressed that “by setting an emissions reduction target of 100 percent by 2035 and providing no incentive for the use of renewable fuels, the regulation is not in line with the principle of technological neutrality.” Furthermore, the document stated that “combustion engine cars are owned by low-income citizens and will remain on the road beyond 2035. The success of electric cars will depend a lot on how affordable they become for these citizens.”

Poland is also among the Member States that have raised objections to the ban.  “We have been from the beginning and we are invariably against the ban on the sale of combustion cars after 2035,” said the Polish Minister of Climate and Environment, Anna Moskwa, who participated in a conference on photovoltaics in Brussels, reported on by Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“There are more and more skeptical voices in the behind-the-scenes discussions. States wake up and calculate that 2035 is not that far away. Especially those smaller countries, which, as you can imagine, will be flooded with foreign technologies. Their societies are beginning to understand this reality, understand the consequences for themselves,” Moskwa said during a meeting with journalists, PAP reported.

France, Croatia and Slovenia uphold the ban

On Wednesday, French Minister of Transport Clément Beaune urged Germany to support a ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines in the European Union by 2035, regretting a “form of rebellion” from Berlin.

“If we do not keep this ambition we will be swept away industrially and ecologically,” Beaune stated. “It is not by giving counter-signals that we will succeed in creating the electric car accessible to all,” the minister added. “The signal was clear: it had been supported, including by Germany. It had been adopted under the French presidency of the European Union as a great ambition,” Beaune emphasized.

Croatia supports the regulation for the ban, considering it an important part of the European Green Deal and one of the key intermediate steps for achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Although Croatia does not have a strong auto industry like the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary, the company Rimac Automobili has emerged on the scene in recent years and has become world-famous with the development of an electric sports car. Rimac managed to attract investments from Hyundai and Porsche. Moreover, there is a joint venture between Rimac and Bugatti.

Slovenia is also part of the group of member states that support the regulation for the ban. According to the Slovenian Ministry of the environment, climate and energy, the ban will contribute to achieving climate, energy and environmental objectives in the transport sector, so Slovenia has not changed its position.

The ministry also highlights that, under the new regulation, the European Commission will monitor the development and deployment of zero-emission mobility technologies and infrastructure in the context of regular reviews. If necessary, the European Commission would be able to justify the need to continue selling synthetic fuel driven, zero-carbon internal combustion vehicles as part of those reviews, the ministry believes. In its opinion there are several pathways to the decarbonization of passenger cars, and the ministry is “not opposed to leaving the door open to such a solution.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina making efforts for the future

Even though there is no unified state policy for the gradual transition to the use of electric and hybrid cars and the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has recognized this trend and has approved incentives for a number of buyers to purchase electric cars. The number of such vehicles in Bosnia and Herzegovina is increasing, although the figures are significantly lower compared to European Union countries and the surrounding region.

Car manufacturers are increasingly turning to hybrid and electric cars. They are aware of the need to introduce these vehicles in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially since its capital is often one of the most polluted cities in the world. This is also demonstrated by a team of young engineers gathered in the company GS-TMT, driven by the idea of green energy, who have created the first electric delivery vehicle manufactured in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is called EVO.

This article is published Fridays. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.