Germany and Italy block EU ban on combustion engines

Germany and Italy have slammed an EU plan to ban internal combustion engines by 2035, as the heartlands of the European car industry start a fight against ambitious carbon targets.

The two countries, home to Volkswagen, Fiat and Ferrari, are seeking exemptions for cars running on synthetic fuels, potentially compounding the blow to established industries.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini described the delay as “a great sign” that rewarded the efforts of his hard-right League party. “The voice of millions of Italians has been heard,” he wrote on Twitter.

The blow to Brussels underlines the political clout of the car lobby across Europe and its fears that the green transition will be costly to jobs

VW-owned Porsche has long called for cleaner fuels that would allow it to sell its engine-powered sports cars for years to come, while Italy’s Ferrari has avoided setting a deadline for building a supercar with the engine. has refused.

Germany’s Bosch, which supplies engine systems to carmakers around the world and is considered a laggard in battery technology, has also lobbied for synthetic fuels considered by regulators a “clean” technology.

Rome this week hit back at the German transport ministry, which requested special provisions for so-called e-fuelled cars, bowing to mounting political pressure at home.

E-fuels, which are produced using electricity from renewable hydrogen and other gases, are often considered “carbon neutral”. They can be used in common combustion engines, thus extending the life of Germany’s traditional car manufacturing industry, which makes up about a fifth of the country’s industrial revenue.

“We need e-fuel because there is no alternative to operate our existing fleet in a climate-neutral way,” German Transport Minister Volker Wissing told the ARD broadcaster.

The change of position at such a late stage has prompted anger among other capitals, who see it as a threat to the EU’s credibility on green legislation. The law was agreed between member states last year and approved by the European Parliament this month.

The EU’s targets are part of a wider international effort towards net zero carbon emissions. The UK government has a more ambitious target of banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, but concerns have grown about the impact of the transition on jobs in many countries.

Ford’s chief executive said last year that manufacturing electric vehicles would require 40 percent fewer workers than gasoline-powered cars and trucks, largely because EVs have fewer parts.

Failure to adopt restrictions on combustion engines could seriously hamper the EU’s effort to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Poland has already said it plans to vote against the law, and Bulgaria will not vote.

Germany initially agreed to the rules on the condition that the European Commission launch a review within two years on whether cars running on synthetic or “e-fuels” could be allowed after 2035.

The debate has created deep divisions within the three-party government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Wiesing, whose pro-market Free Democrat party strongly favors the country’s car industry, unexpectedly won the endorsement of the green-run economics ministry on Thursday.

German Green MEP Michael Bloss said the postponement of the vote was an “embarrassment for Germany”, adding that it was “creating chaos, rendering itself completely unviable and becoming a brake on climate protection”. .

The issue is expected to be raised by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when she attends a German government retreat at the weekend.

A person familiar with the discussions said Berlin wanted the commission to “move on” by offering an agreement that would be acceptable to all three German coalition partners. But the person said that no proposal has been received so far.

An EU official said: “This needs to be decided inside the German coalition. The Commission is not the referee for internal coalition disputes.

Additional reporting by Amy Kazmin in London

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