The European Union has recently proposed new regulations that would require automakers to produce only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. This move marks a significant shift in the continent’s transport industry, intending to combat climate change and reduce pollution levels.
Poland opposed the law, while Italy, Bulgaria, and Romania chose not to vote. The agreement experienced delays when Germany requested an exemption for cars using e-fuels. E-fuels are considered carbon neutral since they utilise captured CO2 emissions to offset the emissions released when the fuel is burned in an engine. Initially, the new law was expected to prohibit the sale of internal combustion engine cars in the EU by 2035. However, Germany successfully obtained an exemption, which will now benefit traditional vehicle owners despite e-fuels not being widely available yet.
The EU will provide further guidance on the continued sales of e-fuel-only cars later this year. According to the European Commission, passenger cars and vans contribute to approximately 12% and 2.5% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, respectively. Recently, the UN issued a warning that the world is on track to miss the target of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C. The new EU law mandates zero CO2 emissions for all new cars sold by 2035, with a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 2021 levels.
Germany’s opposition, which came late in the process and after other EU countries and politicians had already agreed to the 2035 phaseout, caused dissatisfaction among some EU diplomats. Spanish energy minister Teresa Ribera expressed disapproval, stating that the approach was unfair and current assessments indicate that e-fuels are too expensive for widespread use.
The Need for Zero-Emission Vehicles
The world is currently facing a climate crisis, with rising temperatures and extreme weather events becoming increasingly frequent. The transport sector is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, with cars and trucks responsible for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions. These effects of diesel emissions have a detrimental impact on public health, leading to increased rates of respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
By transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles, Europe can drastically reduce its carbon footprint and improve air quality. Electric cars emit no exhaust fumes and produce fewer particulate matter and nitrogen oxides than their petrol and diesel counterparts. This reduction in harmful pollutants can lead to fewer health problems for people who live in urban areas and other areas with high traffic density.
Moving Towards Zero-Emission Vehicles
Although the transition towards zero-emission vehicles is essential, it is not without its challenges. One significant obstacle is the lack of infrastructure needed to support the widespread adoption of electric cars. Many people are discouraged from buying electric cars due to the limited availability of charging stations and the longer charging times compared to conventional refuelling.
To address this issue, the EU plans to invest heavily in the expansion of public charging stations. The proposed target is to have one million public charging stations across Europe by 2030. Governments and public organisations have also started to work on providing tax incentives, subsidised charging stations, and low-interest loans for consumers looking to buy EVs as a way of promoting and encouraging the growth of green transport.
Impacts of the Change
The shift towards zero-emission vehicles also presents significant opportunities for European automakers. Many companies like Porsche, Ferrari, and Volkswagen are already investing in electric and hybrid vehicle technology. This transition represents a chance for automakers to establish themselves as leaders in the emerging electric vehicle market and somehow redeem themselves for using emissions-cheating devices in the recent diesel emission scandals. The scandals, which involved several other big-name carmakers like Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and Vauxhall, led to thousands of diesel emission claims from individuals and groups in the UK and other European countries, which are still being pursued today. More information about the diesel emission scandals can be found.
The shift towards zero-emission vehicles also presents opportunities in terms of job creation and technology transfer. Engineers and technicians will be needed to design and manufacture electric batteries and charging infrastructure. At the same time, the installation of public charging stations could create jobs in construction, maintenance, and energy management. Additionally, the development of electric vehicle technology could lead to spin-off industries that create jobs in related fields.
The Way Ahead
While the transition to zero-emission vehicles may present significant challenges, the benefits are well worth it. The EU’s proposed regulations can significantly impact the automotive industry, the environment, and public health. The transition can lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air within urban areas, and increased innovation and job creation. The adoption of zero-emission vehicles should not be seen as an obstacle. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity to transform the transport sector and to create a sustainable future.