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28-02-2024 | Internal Combustion Engine | Editor´s Pick | News

The Dogmatic Path to E-mobility Shifts the Problem

Author: Thomas Schneider

3:30 min reading time

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How can CO2 emissions be reduced in the transport and energy sectors? What is important now was the topic of the panel discussion at the 11th International Engine Congress.

"No climate protection without the combustion engine!" In principle, all of the panellists agreed with the provocative title of the panel discussion, which stated that effective climate protection is only possible by including combustion engines and not by banning them. 

"The push in Europe to move dogmatically towards electromobility is only shifting the CO2 problem," said Michael Fleiss, CEO of Aurobay, for example. This is because the necessary energy has to be provided one way or another, and if there is a shortage of renewable energy, this is done using fossil fuels. Therefore, the climate friendliness of vehicles cannot and must not simply be measured by the exhaust pipe. "It is important that we defossilize, not decarbonize," emphasized Professor Dr. Christian Beidl, who chaired the discussion together with Editor-in-Chief ATZ | MTZ Dr. Alexander Heintzel.

E-mobility Needs to Grow Organically

According to Takahiro Nagai, Deputy Director of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), an abrupt switch from combustion engines to electric drives is not expedient, as they cannot cover all applications. In his opinion, both technologies must therefore be developed in parallel and in an evolutionary manner. Especially as battery electric vehicles are not yet advantageous due to the electricity mix and the energy-intensive production of the batteries, Michael Fleiss notes: "The CO2 rucksack is currently greater than the savings in the usage phase." 

According to Dr. Markus Schwaderlapp, Head of Research & Development at Deutz AG, the challenge of intermediate energy storage is underestimated by politicians. The assumption that the use of electrical energy is always more efficient is wrong when you consider the need for intermediate storage and the more efficient production of renewable energy in other parts of the world. Furthermore, according to Dr. Monika Griefahn, CEO of the eFuel Alliance, batteries are not yet designed for reusability and recycling. A key aspect is to include the approximately 1.3 billion existing vehicles worldwide.

Doing One Thing Without Neglecting the Other

The transport and energy transition must therefore be based on two pillars: Electromobility and renewably generated molecular energy sources, according to Professor Beidl. How can development be accelerated? According to Griefahn, a look at Japan can help. There, the goal of reducing CO2 is paramount, and anything that contributes to this is good. A pragmatic approach is therefore necessary. "By making a unilateral decision, Europe is turning itself into a museum". Incidentally, this applies not only to the automotive industry, but also to mechanical engineering. "We have to do both, it's not an either-or decision". The usual path is therefore "that both technologies compete and either one wins or both continue to exist in parallel," adds Fleiss.

"It is not surprising that many good developments are currently coming from China and not from Europe," says Benjamin Krieger, Secretary General of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA). The European players lack perspective due to the planned ban on combustion engines. He is therefore calling for a target without a technology specification. However, we must also question ourselves in terms of competitiveness and provide solutions that customers really need.

Molecular Memory Urgently Needed

Dr. Holger Becker, Member of the German Bundestag and member of the parliamentary group "Regenerative Fuels", also sees the need for regeneratively produced fuels. "Of course we need molecular storage systems, that is undisputed, as e-mobility is not suitable for some applications". However, the question is in which area they should be used. He does not believe that the trend towards electrification in the passenger car sector can be stopped. There is also a fear among political players that electrification in the transport sector will suffer from the widespread use of renewable fuels, as this could lead to a diffusion of investments that cannot be afforded. 

However, this fear is unfounded in the eyes of the other participants. The investments in electrification have long since been made and the companies are dependent on bringing the new products to customers in the future. 

The essence is therefore "that we ultimately need all available sustainable energy sources in order to make transport and energy generation more climate-friendly in the future," summarizes Alexander Heintzel. "To achieve this, everyone involved must pull together, because only a systemic approach based on social consensus will ultimately lead to success. If we don't think in cycles - cradle-to-cradle - and politicians don't understand this, we are doomed to failure, and that would be a shame."

This is a partly automated translation of this German article.


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