When MEPs approved a new law on Tuesday, the European Union will forbid the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles beginning in 2035. At the same time, Brussels is developing plans to reduce carbon emissions from buses and trucks.
The legislation governing cars and vans has already been accepted by member states of the European Union, and they will now legally sign it into law. But, there will be much discussion regarding planned regulations against larger freight and passenger vehicles.
The car bill, which was approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg, has supporters who claim it will encourage investment to fend off competition from China and the United States and provide European automakers a clear deadline for switching to the production of electric vehicles.
This in turn will support the ambitious goal of the European Union to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and create a “climate neutral” economy.
“Let me remind you that between last year and the end of this year China will bring 80 models of electric cars to the international market,” EU vice president Frans Timmermans warned MEPs.
“These are good cars. These are cars that will be more and more affordable, and we need to compete with that. We don’t want to give up this essential industry to outsiders.”
Opponents counter that hundreds of thousands of jobs are at danger and that neither industry nor many drivers are prepared for such an abrupt end to internal combustion engine vehicles.
“Our proposal is … to let the market decide what technology is best to reach our goals,” said MEP Jens Gieseke, a member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).
Gieseke declared that arguments from Green and socialist MEPs that electric cars are cheaper to run had been rendered “null and void” by the crisis of soaring energy costs.
“In Germany 600,000 people work on ICE production, those jobs are at risk,” he declared.
The “Havana effect,” which would see Europeans continue to drive old gas-guzzlers when new sales are outlawed due to lack of availability or affordability, is foreseen by the EPP group.
The United States and other competitors of Europe, according to opponents, build vehicle batteries in other countries, but Timmermans asserted that with EU-backed investment, European production will rise.
Green MEPs stressed the importance of the ban in reducing emissions and pollution.
Victory for the planet?
Karima Delli, chair of the transport committee, declared: “Today’s vote is a historic vote for the ecological transition … it is a victory for our planet and our populations”
The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, presented its intentions to decrease emissions from heavier vehicles independently of the legislative vote.
Throughout a protracted negotiating process with the parliament and EU member states, this text may yet alter.
It suggests a schedule for reducing emissions starting in 2030 for vehicles with comparable engines, such as trucks over five tonnes and long-distance buses over 7.5 tonnes.
From January 2030, new trucks’ emissions must be reduced by at least 45 percent compared to 2019 levels. These emissions must then be cut by 65 percent from January 2035 and by 90 percent from January 2040 — again relative to 2019 levels.
City buses must be emissions free from 2030, but the European Commission said manufacturers could pick their own technology to achieve this, citing electric motors, hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells.
Cars currently account for about 15 percent of all CO2 emissions in the EU. Trucks, city buses and long-distance buses account for another six percent.
US green subsidies
The world’s largest producer of automobiles, Germany, and conservative MEPs have expressed skepticism about the new regulations because they worry about the cost of retooling their factories and retraining their workforces while international competitors have more flexible goals.
The United States has launched a massive plan to subsidize the green transition of its own economy with government handouts since the law started its journey through the EU parliamentary process.
This has led to fears in Europe that its US rival will siphon away investment and jobs in electric vehicle and battery production.
Meanwhile, China — the world’s biggest automobile market — wants at least half of all new cars to be electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered by 2035.