The European Union is in favor of banning the sale of cars with infernal combustion engines by 2035, but Germany has been reluctant to join in that commitment. Automobile manufacturing is big business in Germany, what with Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes Benz, plus Tier One suppliers like Bosch, Siemens, and Continental accounting for hundreds of thousands of jobs directly related to automobile production.
Then there all those who work in supporting industries like sales, advertising, insurance, and maintenance who bring the total number of jobs supported by the German car business to well over a million people. What it the EV revolution leads to a significant loss of jobs? That could have serious economic and political consequences for Germany.
But now, Politico reports that Germany has reluctantly and belatedly signed on to the 2035 ICE ban and will ditch plans to lobby for key exemptions to EU carbon dioxide emissions targets. The change in policy came at a meeting of EU environment ministers this week and marks a milestone for Europe’s largest economy, which has long opposed stiff pollution targets for the automotive industry. It now puts Germany in alignment with smaller, mostly rich countries that want to ban the sale of polluting vehicles by 2035 or sooner.
“The new German government stands behind the [European] Commission’s draft and thus fully supports the end of the internal combustion engine [for cars and vans] in the EU from 2035,” Steffi Lemke, Germany’s environmental minister said in an interview. Lemke is a member of Germany’s Green party.
Last year, the Greens, Social Democrats, and Free Democrats all called for ending the sale of gasoline and diesel cars in accordance with the proposed 2035 moratorium on selling gasoline- and diesel-powered cars. That agreement would have allowed cars to continue using e-fuels — synthetic fuels that are chemically similar to fossil fuels — after 2035.
But Lemke said Berlin will now clearly support the original Commission position, leaving no room for e-fuels. The government backs “all elements” of the Commission’s proposals, she said, calling Berlin’s readiness to accept Brussels’ plans a “very big step forward.”
“I would have wanted intermediate steps and more ambitious steps,” Lemke said of her preference to strengthen the EU proposal. Instead, she said the market for electric cars is growing so rapidly that banning the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles will definitely be possible by 2035.
The fear is that a sudden shift to electric vehicles — as demanded by everyone from environmental groups to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess — will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. But experts say an exemption for e-fuels is unworkable.
“For vehicle types that are not covered by the CO2 standards — I always take the example of ambulances, or possibly tractors — you will possibly have to find solutions,” Lemke said. “But as far as the standards are concerned, that means new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles [with] internal combustion engines will no longer be allowed after 2035.”
That’s good news for the Earth, which can surely use a break from the extravagant pollution that pours from the tailpipes of conventional motor vehicles today.