The European Union (EU) has decided on a ban for the year 2035, which is somewhat casually referred to as a ban on internal-combustion engine (ICE). What exactly does this ban mean? These and other questions are explained and answered in this blog.

1. What is the EU ban on ICE?

The so-called EU ban on internal combustion engines is not a ban on vehicles with internal combustion engines. Instead, it is a European Union directive (CO2 emission standards for cars and vans) that prohibits member states from selling vehicles that emit CO2 at the tailpipe. Strictly interpreted – by only recording the emissions at the tailpipe, regardless of the CO2 source – this means that conventional vehicles with combustion engines may no longer be sold from the year 2035. 

2. Why is the EU ban on ICE being introduced?

Under the European Climate Change Act, EU countries must reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The goal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. The (de facto) ban on combustion engines is intended to significantly reduce emissions and minimise dependence on fossil fuels.

3. Why had Germany vetoed it?

Germany argues that although vehicles fuelled with renewable fuels emit CO2 at the tailpipe, this CO2 is climate-neutral because it was previously removed from the atmosphere for the production of these fuels. So, in net terms, no CO2 is added to the atmosphere. On the contrary: as long as it is bound in the fuel in the tank, the CO2 content of the atmosphere is actually lowered.

In order to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible, Germany is calling for both technologies that make this possible to be pursued in parallel: Electromobility, where it can be established quickly enough, and internal combustion vehicles fuelled with eFuels, where electromobility is not possible or cannot be introduced nationwide quickly enough.

4. Where do we go from here?

On 25 March, the EU Commission reached an agreement with Germany and the other member states that had vetoed the proposal. ICE will now be allowed to be registered even after 2035 if they can be proven to run only on eFuels.

Beyond that German Transport Minister Wissing has negotiated a formulation that suggests that a CO2-neutral registration of a combustion engine may even come into force before then, possibly with the next revision or even directly via the Delegated Act.

There are various ideas on how to ensure that newly registered vehicles are only powered by eFuels. One possibility is balance-sheet-based and was found both in Article 18 of the total revision of the CO2 Act, which was rejected by the people in 2021, and in the first compromise proposal by German Transport Minister Volker Wissing: at the moment of new registration, as much eFuel is purchased and fed into the distribution grid as the vehicle consumes during its lifetime mileage – or this is contractually secured.

This is climate-neutral, because it doesn’t matter where the eFuel is produced and refuelled, because the atmosphere doesn’t care whether CO2 is emitted in Spain or in Denmark or somewhere else.

But there are also various other technical solutions. The players in the EU are now working on such solutions. In principle, they have until 2035 to agree on a concrete solution. A lot of innovation can happen until then.

The energy transition is in full swing and the demand for renewable energies is steadily increasing. Industry is also increasingly relying on renewable energies and technologies, including renewable energy carriers like eFuels. SPIN will be happy to answer any questions and connect you to the right partners. Contact us for more information or to become a member.