German carmakers seek e-fuel help as EU tightens climate goals
Germany’s car industry is looking for assurances that a plan to make deeper cuts in carbon pollution in the European Union will leave a loophole for the combustion engine.
A new carbon reduction target proposed by the European Commission has caught the German car industry on a back foot, heaping more pressure on a key industry that’s already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, according to the VDA car lobby and Robert Bosch GmbH, Germany’s largest automotive parts maker.
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The EC proposed a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 55% compared with 1990 levels, deeper than the current 40% target. That may force carmakers to slash emissions for new vehicles in half by 2030 compared with average output in 2021.
The prospect reinforced carmakers’ resolve to keep open a lifeline for combustion engines that can be fed emissions-reducing synthetic or E-fuels, said VDA President Hildegard Mueller.
The EU’s proposed CO2 target for 2030 implies that 60% of all new vehicles will be electric, an increase on about 9% today, said Mueller. Effectively forcing combustion engine vehicles off the road.
Synthetic fuel -- methane produced by tapping green power to make hydrogen and then combining it with carbon dioxide -- can be added to gasoline or substitute it completely, requiring no or few changes to combustion engines and gas station infrastructure its proponents say.
(Also read: Climate plan for EU's transport won't cut carbon far enough)
Germany’s BDI industry lobby last year said e-fuels could realistically corner an 8% share of the transport fuel market by 2030. Europe’s biggest car market has a current car fleet of over 58 million vehicles, of which 1.4% were hybrid or full-electric by January. The government targets an electric-only share of up to 10 million by 2030.
For Bosch, the proposed CO2 cuts “don’t make sense" and set over-ambitious ecological targets that will conflict with economic and social reality, the company said in a Sept. 23 note.
Bosch is committed to supporting the switch to electric cars, investing 500 million euros in the technology this year, but envisages e-fuels playing a significant role in cutting combustion engine emissions.