Wednesday 29 March 2023
The UK's plans to achieve net zero ahead of any other developed nation was dealt a blow yesterday and the proposed ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine
cars by 2030 was thrown into chaos when the EU Commission (de facto ruling committe of the European Union,) scrapped its
own proposed restrictions on the sale of petrol and diesel fuelled cars after opposition from Germany's powerful auto industry.
Senior figures in the industry warned that British rules due to take effect in 2030 are untenable following the European climbdown, which will allow internal combustion engines as long as they burn carbon-neutral petrol alternatives.
The European Union will go ahead with its ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035 but will now allow these so-called e-fuels, which have been reclassified as carbon neutral following a backroom compromise forced on it by the German negotiators on Tuesday night.
Sources in Brussels and London suggested the UK government was considering following the Commission’s lead by also allowing an e-fuel exemption. British carmakers Aston Martin and McLaren are already understood to be examining e-fuels as an option for powering future models.
Critics of the Government’s Net Zero plans claimed a victory for common sense on learning of the EU decision, with some going so far as to demand a total review of 'net zero' policy is needed. Ecoloons representing Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil have said that it could slow down electric vehicle adoption although recent sales figures suggest take up of EVs is declining as owners become aware it is almost imposssible to offload an electric car in the second hand market.
The former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “The 2030 deadline for the elimination of petrol and diesel engine cars in the U.K. is simply not achievable. Unless we delay, we hand a massive boost to the Chinese car manufacturers. They are already dominant.”
Britain is to ban the sale of new cars that run on petrol and diesel only in seven years’ time under plans drawn up by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson but this policy now looks to be in jeopardy.The EU’s e-fuel exemption will allow a synthetic alternative to petrol which is made by mixing carbon dioxide captured from the air with hydrogen obtained by splitting water molecules using renewable energy.
Currently this is expected to be more expensive than petrol, however, Benedetto Vigna, the boss of Ferrari, said this week that he expects the price to fall as the market grows and economies of scale become viable. Industry experts believe synthetic petrol and diesel could be the beginning of a return to sanity that would allow carmakers to focus on collaborating with chemical companiesproducing lower-cost e-fuels instead of expensive battery powered cars.
Andrew Graves, a car industry veteran and professor at the University of Bath, said: “I think it’s a very exciting technology that we’re looking at, so that we can not only use it for things like motorsport, but we can also more importantly use it for keeping existing vehicles on the road. I think there’s a lot of things that the Government needs to look at before it goes hell bent on just having a blanket ban on diesel or petrol.”