June 21. 2024. 3:18

The Daily

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Bid farewell to new petrol and diesel cars (officially)

And so, just like that – after all the speculation and recrimination and gnashing of teeth – it is done.

The CO2 standards for cars and vans regulation was approved today by the Council of the EU, bringing to an end the odyssey of one of the Green Deal’s most controversial transport laws.

In the end, only Poland voted against the regulation, with Italy, Romania and Bulgaria opting to abstain.

Germany meanwhile, the primary antagonist (or hero, depending on your viewpoint), voted in favour, having received the guarantee over the use of e-fuels that it had sought (or demanded, to be more accurate).

The passage of the law means that from 2035, new cars sold within the EU will be required to have a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions. The decision is a boon to the already growing electric vehicle market, which is now essentially guaranteed to surpass its combustion engine counterparts in the coming decades.

While petrol and diesel will remain for sale past 2035 to service the legacy fleet of cars and vans, they will eventually fade away as a fuel source for European vehicles – a sea change that will reshape parts of our urban infrastructure.

The EU’s climate chief Frans Timmermans no doubt breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing the vote formally adopted, the prospect of having the European Parliament and Council re-open the file for new negotiations now no longer on the table.

The EU “has taken an important step towards zero-emission mobility”, the Commission vice-president tweeted. “The direction is clear: In 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions. It brings a big contribution to climate neutrality by 2050 and is a key part of the EU Green Deal.”

To get the deal over the line, the Commission had to offer Germany certain guarantees, in something of an embarrassment for Brussels.

Under the agreement proffered to Berlin, the Commission will put forward a proposal to register cars running on e-fuels after 2035. This will take the form of a “delegated act”, a non-legislative act often used to cover highly technical issues.

While the European Parliament cannot amend delegated acts, it can reject them outright. The Parliament’s chief negotiator on the file, Dutch lawmaker Jan Huitema, warned as much, noting that the Parliament would not simply give its blessing to the Commission’s proposal.

“Any possible future proposals concerning e-fuels will be thoroughly assessed, both on their content and their legal basis,” he said in a statement.

If the delegated act is rejected, the Commission will go the route of a full amendment to the regulation, opening it to the usual scrutiny from the co-legislators.

To meet Germany’s requirements whilst upholding their bid for climate neutrality, the EU will only allow cars running exclusively on e-fuels to be registered post-2035.

This means that technology must be included to prevent the car from starting if it is fuelled by petrol or diesel.

Such technology does not currently exist, but it is speculated it could work similarly to alcohol fail-safe devices, designed to deter would-be drunk drivers, which can shut off the vehicle if the driver fails a breathalyser test.

Whether an enterprising person will be able to tamper with the technology and fuel their car with cheaper fossil fuels remains to be seen (but it does seem like something that may happen, wouldn’t you agree?).

In reacting to the agreement, some lawmakers couldn’t help but take a parting shot at Germany’s last-minute intervention.

“Finally, the reckless blockade ends, along with the future of the combustion engine,” said MEP Terry Reintke of the Greens.

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New charging infrastructure goals agreed (provisionally)

Negotiations on new charging infrastructure goals were agreed in a typical late-night negotiating session between the European Parliament and member states, meaning more electric and hydrogen charging points are set to be installed along the EU’s core network.

Under the agreement, charging stations for electric cars will be placed every 60 km along the EU’s main highways by 2026.

Higher-powered chargers for trucks and buses must be rolled out on at least half of the EU’s core network every 120 km by 2028, while hydrogen refuelling stations will be installed at least every 200 km by 2031.

“The new rules will help to roll out the infrastructure for alternative fuels without further delay and ensure that driving and charging a new generation car is as simple and convenient as one that depends on petrol,” said Ismail Ertug, a German lawmaker with the centre-left S&D group and the Parliament’s chief negotiator.

Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister for infrastructure and housing and negotiator for EU member states, said the deal will ensure that Europeans “no longer have a reason to feel anxious about finding charging and refuelling stations [for] their electric or fuel-cell car”.

Under the new rules, it will also be easier to recharge your vehicle, as all charging points must offer card payment (or at least payment with a QR code using a banking app).

The cost of charging must also be made more transparent, with prices displayed in a way that can be understood by non-energy nerds, such as per kWh or per minute.

But if recent history has taught us anything, it is that any provisional agreement struck at trilogue is not final until it is formally voted through. The deal will now go to the respective institutions to be approved.

A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

EU countries approve ban on sale of petrol, diesel cars from 2035

Member states gave their final approval on Tuesday (28 March) to a regulation that will ban the sale of carbon-emitting cars and vans after 2035, finalising one of the most controversial elements of the EU’s Green Deal.

EU reaches deal to boost charging infrastructure across the bloc

Charging infrastructure for clean vehicles will be ramped up across the EU following an agreement by legislators on Tuesday (28 March), paving the way for an increase in zero-emission vehicles.

German minister: E-fuels row ‘did Europe a great service’

Germany and the European Commission have moved closer to a deal on the future of the internal combustion engine, the German transport minister said, raising hopes that EU legislation to rein in carbon emissions from new cars will soon be finalised.

Transport biofuels cap under scrutiny after renewable energy drop

The fall in the quantity of renewable energy used in the transport sector, which dipped under 10% thanks largely to a change in how statistics are calculated, shows that the cap placed on waste biofuels is “nonsensical”, industry has said.

EU strikes ‘ground-breaking’ deal to cut maritime emissions

The European Parliament and EU ministers struck a deal in the early hours of Thursday morning (23 March) on the bloc’s flagship law to cut emissions in the maritime sector, marking a major step forward for the bloc’s plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

German liberals push for petrol price hike instead of combustion ban

Germany’s free-market FDP party has proposed tackling road transport carbon by increasing the price of petrol and diesel through national carbon pricing and giving the money back to citizens via a per-capita direct payment.

EasyJet bets on hydrogen aircraft to end flight emissions

Budget airline easyJet is banking on hydrogen aircraft to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, betting that the novel technology will revolutionise the environmental impact of flying in the coming decades.