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Tuesday 26 July 2022

The European Union

EU Ban on New Combustion Cars and Vans from 2035
By Ben Purvis

The European Union has reinforced its plans to end the sale of combustion-engined cars and vans by 2035 as part of a plan to reach carbon-neutrality by 2050.
The European Commission came up with the schedule last year, but has now reinforced it by dismissing a protest from member states including Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Italy to delay the cut-off date until 2040, giving more time for manufacturers and infrastructures to adapt.

Although the current version of the EU's 'Fit for 55' plan - which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990, and to hit carbon neutrality by 2050 - envisions an outright end to the sale of new cars with combustion engines, the door has also been left open for the adoption of other carbon-neutral fueled engines and platforms, rather than pure electric power.

'stay of execution for bikes?'

By 2035, the target is to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars and vans by 100%, in other words to end all carbon dioxide emission from them. That means hydrogen-fueled combustion engines, which emit water vapor (along with some oxides of nitrogen, preventing them from being classed as 'zero-emissions'), could qualify. In theory, so too could the use of 'synth gas' under appropriate circumstances (production, infrastructure, state of tune etc.).
The Commission has also set a date of 2026 for an assessment of the progress towards the 100% CO2 emissions reduction. While sceptical of the technology at the moment, the Commission will also revisit the idea of synthetic e-fuels - petrol replacements made using carbon capture technology, allowing conventional combustion engines to become net-zero in their carbon emission despite still emitting CO2 at the tailpipe - in 2026.
Several car makers, including Porsche, are backing the idea of e-fuels (as have Bosch and Volkswagen Audi at various stages), and recent tech developments have even seen the development of prototype 'fuel from air' manufacturing plants, using sunlight and CO2 scavenged from the air to create liquid carbon fuels.

'fuel from air'

Such systems could essentially make current vehicles carbon-neutral, as well as allowing the sale of combustion engined cars and vans after the 2035 cut-off date, and don't have the same mining and manufacturing impact on the environment that battery-powered electric cars impose.
However, to allow these e-fuel-using engines, the European Union will have to reword its proposed 2035 rules to remove the emphasis on 'tailpipe' emissions.
For motorcycles, there's still no official EU cut-off date for CO2 emissions. They contribute relatively little greenhouse emissions overall, and as such are less of a priority. In the UK, the Department for Transport's 'Decarbonising Transport' document, published last year, committed to consult on a phase-out date of 2035 or earlier for non-zero emissions powered two-wheelers.
However, an initial consultation earlier this year resulted in a government response, saying "due to the diversity of the sector and the different vehicle types that are covered by the 'L-category', this cannot be a 'one size fits all' approach. Different approaches will be needed for different types of vehicles."