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13-06-2022 | Emissions | News | Article

Pros and cons to the EU decision to phase out internal combustion engines

6:30 min reading time

This article is an automated translation. The original article in German can be found here

The European Parliament's decision on a de facto ban on internal combustion engines in passenger cars from 2035 is causing lively discussions. Even in the technology editorial departments of Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, opinions do not go in just one direction. To further stimulate the important discourse, editor Dipl.-Ing. (graduate engineer) Thomas Siebel and ATZ/MTZ editor-in-chief Dr. Alexander Heintzel comment on the parliamentary decision in a "pro" and "con" section. 

Contra: Sit down, mark F!

Author: Alexander Heintzel

The European Parliament has decided on the de facto end of combustion engines in Europe from 2035. This is wrong and will result in missing climate targets.

Even if the language in the EU Parliament's decision that "no vehicles emitting climate-damaging greenhouse gases" are to be newly registered after 2035 still leaves a loophole open in the direction of technological openness, development activities and production capacities will be withdrawn from Europe and transferred to where e-mobility, sustainable fuels and H2 will be launched together. The message that this is associated with technological leadership in e-drive and battery development must be seen as pure propaganda. Europe is currently heading for a dead end and will soon realize, unfortunately, that the climate targets cannot be achieved in this way. Why?

More than 30 million tons of CO2 are ignored

Today, Germany has a stock of 48 million passenger cars. In the last ten years, this has grown by 0.6 million per year, with around 3 million new vehicles every year. A large proportion of the vehicles therefore remain in the stock. It is now assumed that this will fall to 42 million passenger cars by 2030 and that 15 million e-cars will be on the market. Even if this were to happen, around 65% of cars with internal combustion engines would still be on the market. According to Fit for 55, Germany needs to cut CO2 emissions by around 165 million tons per year, including around 54 million tons from the passenger car sector. 15 million e-cars in the 2030 market would mean savings of about 20-24 million t CO2, depending on the electricity mix. That leaves 30-34 million t that are ignored. The use of E20 gasoline alone would save 15-20 million tons, and the widespread use of synthetic fuels and R33 diesel would close this gap completely. 

If the roughly 11 million commercial vehicles were added, Germany would be even further away from its climate targets with a large-scale electrification approach. In addition, the question of the availability and storage of sustainably generated electricity and the reliable provision of the necessary peak power would become even more pressing - all issues that are currently unresolved. In addition, there is the highly climate-relevant ecological footprint of electrically powered vehicles, which is simply ignored by politicians. 

Basic technical and mathematical understanding is lacking

The problem is therefore not the lack of efficient approaches to sustainable climate protection in mobility, but the fact that decision-makers at the political level quite obviously lack a basic technical and mathematical understanding and replace it with faith. However, religion cannot be used to pursue a successful climate policy.

What is the difference between science and religion? If I say "beer is in the fridge" and go and check it, then that is a preform of science because I am verifying. If I say the same thing and don't verify but believe it, then that's religion. And if I say "beer is in the fridge", find out when I check that it is not, and still continue to claim it, then that is esotericism.

The political actors are currently somewhere between religion and esotericism. They lack basic understanding of the natural sciences. But this understanding is necessary to sustainably advance climate protection and development - and that can only be done with all available drives and energy storage systems. If we do not succeed in anchoring this in political understanding soon, then the Fit for 55 targets will be clearly missed. The price will be paid by the climate and future generations. 

Pro: Blinkers off, auto industry!

Author: Thomas Siebel

The EU Parliament has spoken out against the use of synthetic fuels in cars and vans. This complicates the path towards climate-neutral passenger car mobility. Nevertheless, the decision is the right one.

From 2035, new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles will no longer be allowed to emit greenhouse gases. This is what the majority of the EU Parliament wants, and it specifies: Synthetic fuels will also be banned from these vehicle classes. This means that the internal combustion engine in passenger cars will die out from the middle of the next decade.

While the German automotive industry, after years of resistance, has now embraced the battery-electric drive and is making considerable investments, interest groups such as the VDA and the ADAC are running up a storm against the decision contra e-fuels. In doing so, they are doing what is expected of associations: they are standing up for their members, their industry. Drivers don't want to be stigmatized as environmental sinners, member companies want to earn money from combustion engines for as long as possible, and the industry must succeed in reducing traffic emissions by 40% within this decade. As a reminder, between 1995 and 2019, absolute emissions from passenger cars increased by 5%.

Clever or lacking in solidarity - or both?

In this context, climate-neutral synthetic fuels would be the logical choice. They are produced from hydrogen, which as we know is to be generated in large quantities as soon as possible with the help of renewable energies, and carbon, which could be obtained from unavoidable industrial emissions, for example. Synthetic fuels would be an effective lever for making even the large number of internal combustion vehicles still on the road in 2035 less harmful to the environment. This argument is coherent, it is correct - and it is clever! Because on closer inspection, it exposes what the lobbying of this most important industry in Germany really is: lacking in solidarity.

It goes without saying that the automotive industry knows that huge quantities of hydrogen will be needed within a very short time for the transition to a climate-neutral economy. They also know that demand for green hydrogen is likely to exceed supply for years.

Priority for steel and heavy-duty transport

Priority is therefore being given to the use of hydrogen and its synthesis products in aviation and shipping, in heavy-duty truck transport, and in the steel and basic chemicals industries. Why? Because these greenhouse gas-intensive sectors have no alternative on the road to climate neutrality. The steel industry, which accounts for a third of industrial greenhouse gases in Germany, calculates that 1 t of hydrogen used avoids up to 28 t of CO2 emissions. And it is preparing for the fact that from 2030 it will initially have to run its new plants partly on natural gas, as too little green hydrogen will be available.

The expansion of hydrogen production poses the greatest challenge to the industry. In Germany alone, we need a generation capacity of 5 GW by 2030, plus imports from abroad. But the most powerful electrolysers today have capacities of just 24 MW. A gigawatt industry has to grow out of a sector of manufactures within a very short time. What claim does an automotive industry have here that has a battery-electric drive that converts wind and solar energy into driving power five times more efficiently than an e-fuel combustion engine?

No detours to the e-drive

Let's spin it a little further and see what would happen if the EU Parliament had not come out against synthetic fuels for cars and vans. The pressure on manufacturers to switch to e-drives would decrease, the number of internal combustion engines on the roads would remain correspondingly high in 2035, but absolute car emissions would possibly be significantly lower than today. That would be a success for the automotive industry. At the same time, steel production and aviation would have to use fossil fuels for longer, while e-fuel burners burn precious renewable energy with an overall efficiency of 13%.

The automotive industry has no choice but to take the rocky path. It must take off its blinkers and embed its arguments for climate-neutral passenger car traffic in a macroeconomic perspective. Then it would be left with only one conclusion: convert passenger car production to e-drives as quickly as possible.

This article is an automated translation. The original article in German can be found here

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