“Driven by ideology”
First German company to sue against combustion engine ban
September 23, 2023, 9:20 a.m
Listen to article
This audio version was artificially generated. More info | Send feedback
From 2035, only zero-emission cars will be permitted in the EU. Since this means an end to combustion engines, even if they are fueled with CO₂-neutral e-fuels, a German company now wants to go to court. The industry complains that even a planned new regulation will not solve the problem.
For the first time, a German company wants to sue against the decision to phase out combustion engines at EU level. This is reported by “Welt am Sonntag”. The Lühmann Group, which is active in trading synthetic fuels, therefore wants to overturn parts of an EU regulation passed in March that stipulates that newly registered cars must be emission-free from 2035. It sounds “nice to only allow emission-free cars,” said Lorenz Kiene, the head of the Lühmann Group, to the newspaper. However, the EU’s plan is “driven by ideology, not facts.”
The Lühmann Group particularly criticizes the planned ban on combustion engines because the EU only considers cars that do not emit any exhaust gases to be emission-free. But it makes “no sense to only measure emissions from the exhaust,” said company boss Kiene. Instead, CO₂ emissions should be recorded “across the entire life cycle of a vehicle”.
Internal combustion engines that run on synthetic fuels called e-fuels are not emission-free. However, because the CO₂ emitted during the production of the fuels is taken from industrial plants or from the air, they are considered climate-neutral in the balance sheet if the electricity used for production was produced using renewable energies.
Interest group also criticizes new EU plan
According to a new plan from the EU Commission, new cars with combustion engines should continue to be registered from 2035, but can only be fueled with completely CO₂-neutral e-fuels. According to the draft available to Reuters, a new type of vehicle is to be introduced. The cars would have to be designed in such a way that the engine only starts with the correct e-fuel in the tank. This can be done using devices to monitor the chemical properties of the fuel. The proposal is expected to be published later this year.
The interest group “E-Fuel Alliance” also criticizes this plan as too restrictive and practically impossible to implement. “This means that the internal combustion engine will be banned in 2035,” explained the association, which, in addition to e-fuel manufacturers, also includes companies in the automotive and petroleum industries. Actually, from 2035 onwards, only CO₂-free new cars will be allowed to be registered in the European Union (EU), which practically means a ban on combustion engines.
On the initiative of Transport Minister Volker Wissing from the FDP, Germany implemented an exception so that cars with combustion engines can continue to run on e-fuels. The required CO₂ neutrality means that when they are burned, only as much carbon dioxide may be emitted as was previously captured from the air to produce them. E-fuels are still very expensive today; their production requires more energy than a battery drive.
Challenges with complete CO₂ reduction
According to the E-Fuel Alliance, the legislative plan requires a 100 percent reduction in CO₂ emissions, which includes the entire value chain including the transport of fuels. “As long as transport and distribution are not also secured using renewable energies, a complete reduction in emissions cannot be achieved,” explained association boss Ralf Diemer.
Among German car manufacturers, Porsche has advocated the use of synthetic fuels so that a combustion engine variant of the 911 sports car can continue to be built. BMW also insists on openness to technology, i.e. no commitment to battery electrics alone. BMW and the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) explained that e-fuels are also important in order to reduce the CO₂ emissions of the existing fleet of currently around 250 million vehicles in Europe. Current BMW combustion engines could already use e-fuels. “Technically, it is not a problem that the vehicles recognize e-fuels and can therefore only be operated with them,” explained the VDA.