From 2035 there will be no new cars with internal combustion engines on European roads. This decision by the EU Parliament was preceded by a tough struggle – actually superfluous, because the car manufacturers initiated the turnaround much earlier.

The EU Parliament wants to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035. A majority of MEPs in Strasbourg voted in favor of manufacturers being only allowed to bring cars and vans onto the market that do not emit greenhouse gases from the middle of the next decade. Before such a regulation can come into force, Parliament still has to negotiate with the EU states.

The Environment Committee of the European Parliament had previously voted in favor of the de facto ban on combustion engines for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in the European Union from 2035, as proposed by the EU Commission as part of the “Fit for 55” climate package. According to this, car manufacturers must ensure that their new cars will no longer emit any pollutants by 2035 – which is equivalent to a ban on petrol and diesel engines.

Synthetic fuels are also banned – from today’s perspective, only electric cars meet these requirements. The EU states reacted divided to the climate package: Several states, including the Czech Republic, were against it. The EU must now start negotiations with governments on the final law.

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In Germany, there were different opinions in the traffic light coalition: For many Greens, combustion engines are poison in times of climate change. The party wanted a ban on combustion engines in Germany by 2030. The SPD and FDP have the industry in mind above all: the car manufacturers shouldn’t continue with the combustion engines forever, but they really didn’t want to ban anything. Because of the jobs in the SPD and because of the freedom in the FDP.

The auto industry, however, has already planned the ban. This has little to do with anticipatory obedience and more to do with the wishes of the customers.

Sales of e-cars are increasing rapidly, petrol and diesel models are stagnating or declining in sales. Tesla is way ahead in Europe with around 61,000 cars sold. Fiat is in second place with 19,000 electric cars that the group put on the road in Europe between January and April 2022. However, the numbers are still modest compared to new registrations of cars with combustion engines: e-cars only account for 14 percent of the total registrations.

Most manufacturers plan to stop selling new cars with diesel or petrol engines by 2030, at least in Germany and a number of other countries. By far the largest European group, Volkswagen, has committed itself to the Paris climate target, which envisages climate neutrality by 2050, and was the first car manufacturer to publicly calculate it years ago: If cars are no longer allowed to emit CO2 from 2050, then the sale of combustion engines must with an average car lifespan of 15 years, end worldwide in 2035.

The Climate Protection Act, which prescribes climate neutrality by 2045, is now in force in Germany. This means that sales in this country should already end around 2030. VW boss Herbert Diess has already announced: “We can handle a ban on combustion engines.”

The industry is preparing for things to go quickly now. Porsche, for example, wants to put more than 80 percent electric cars into the world by 2030. In Germany, the rate is said to be even higher. Audi wants to stop combustion engine production in 2033 and can imagine doing that in Germany earlier. The VW brand wants to sell “over 70 percent” of pure electric cars across Europe by 2030 and stop producing combustion engines worldwide from 2033.

The same applies here: things could go faster in Germany. By 2030, Daimler wants to be able to cover all market segments with electric cars. At the beginning of the 2030s, Mini only wants to sell purely electric cars. Renault is aiming for at least 90 percent e-car share in Europe by 2030. Opel, Citroen and Peugeot, which operate in one group, even want to become purely electric brands as early as 2028, and Alfa Romeo should be ready by 2027. Fiat, Ford and Volvo are there. And Jaguar, Land Rover is even more ambitious; The installation of combustion engines should be over here in three years.

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Apparently, manufacturers have realized that instead of hesitating, it is better to lead the movement. In some countries, such as China, the changeover could take longer due to a lack of charging infrastructure. Whether manufacturers will voluntarily give up this market is currently not foreseeable.

After the vote in the EU Parliament, the German Green MEP Michael Bloss said: “We have decided on the future of Europe as an automotive location.” In the future, the best electric cars and the latest batteries would come from Europe. But that is only one view the decision, which was preceded by a tough struggle between supporters and opponents of the ban.

Jens Gieseke, CDU MEP from Lower Saxony, reported a flood of emails that had reached his office in the past few days. The liberal French MEP Pascal Canfin, chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee, saw a “tsunami of lobbying” sweeping over himself and his colleagues. Gieseke confirmed: “The activities are extreme – from all sides.”

He thinks the decision to ban the combustion engine was wrong. There must also be a chance for the new, less polluting synthetic fuels, not just for battery-powered e-cars. Gieseke’s opponent in the European SPD, MP Tiemo Wölken, emphasizes: The plans do not mean that existing vehicles have to be shut down. “Nobody should have their conventional car taken away.

In practice, however, what Gieseke calls the “Havana effect” of “forced electrification” could occur: As in Cuba, where decades-old US road cruisers are still driving today, enthusiasts could cherish and care for their old combustion engines in order to part with them as late as possible.

For the Cubans, however, this has little to do with hobby and more to do with sheer necessity: the origin of the few modern vehicles is due to the Cuban economic system. After Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, not only were all production facilities and most of the land nationalized, but private individuals were also banned from owning vehicles. Those cars that were already privately owned at that time were exempt from this restriction. To date, the private import of vehicles on the island is prohibited with a few exceptions.