On June 7th, the EU could decide to end petrol and diesel engines by 2035 at the latest – Germany is also pushing for this. However, it is not only the dependence on raw materials from China that makes the “Electric Only” strategy a significant risk.

On June 7, 2022, the fate of the internal combustion engine will most likely be sealed in Europe. According to information from EU circles, it looks as if a majority in the vote in the EU Parliament on new fleet targets will vote for a registration ban for vehicles with combustion engines in the EU from 2035. The ban would then be elaborated in further negotiations, but the direction would be clear: out for petrol and diesel.

Initially, this should only apply to new vehicles, which means that the operation of cars with combustion engines would remain permitted after 2035. Spain is going one step further and wants to ban the operation of all combustion engines by 2050 at the latest. It is to be expected that environmental organizations and the e-car lobby will also demand corresponding rules for the entire EU.

The lobby organization “Transport

But in fact, corporations like Volkswagen or Mercedes are hoping for a boost in the stock market by putting everything on the electric card. Many advantages of this strategy are obvious:

Politicians provide the right framework for this. While the government of ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel did not set an end date for combustion engines despite massive support for electromobility, the traffic light government wants to push the phase-out as quickly as possible and block all alternatives, such as synthetic fuels and e-fuels. She is supported by Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess, who wants to convert the entire VW group to battery operation and has also made unusual demands for a car boss – such as that petrol and diesel fuel should become much more expensive.

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The automotive industry is therefore looking forward to Strasbourg on June 7th. If the combustion engine ban comes, all bridges to alternatives – hybrid drives, synthetic or alternative fuels – will be irretrievably demolished, although global corporations like Toyota are expressly adhering to it. The caution of the Japanese is quite justified. FOCUS Online cites three reasons why the EU’s “Electric Only” strategy is so risky.

Finally independent of Russian oil – this is the argument currently being used to market an advantage of electromobility. On closer inspection, however, this is a fallacy. Because not only is the electric car by no means free of the need to burn fossil fuels – more on that later – but also a new independence would not arise.

Rather the opposite might be the case. Because while you have many alternative delivery partners around the world for oil and gas deliveries and you can even produce gas yourself in Germany, there is an enormous dependence on battery manufacturers from Asia when it comes to electromobility. Battery cars require six times more rare metals, such as lithium, manganese, copper and cobalt, than conventional cars. And with many of them, Europe is almost “blank”. Nothing works without Asia, especially not without China:

Although many raw materials are also becoming more expensive for the production of conventional cars, the premium for battery vehicles is extreme due to the dependence on lithium. On average, more than eight kilograms of it are needed per car. It is 13.3 kg for cobalt, 40 kg for nickel and 66 kg for graphite. Copper, which is installed in conventional vehicles in an average amount of 22.3 kilograms in cable harnesses etc., accounts for about twice as much in an electric car (53.2 kg; all data refer to a 75 kWh -Battery pack).

This also messes up a lot of calculations. After all, electric car manufacturers regularly promise that the prices for electric cars will be the same as for diesel and petrol vehicles in just a few years.

Strongly falling battery prices are firmly planned. However, the timing of cost parity is now highly uncertain due to the exploding commodity prices. To make matters worse, the current, still very high prices for electric vehicles are only possible because purchase premiums and tax gifts in the billions are paid out to manufacturers and buyers of electric cars with tax money.

With an electric car, you basically go from bad to worse and exchange one dependency for the next. The entire auto industry would largely have to dance to China’s tune. While the German car manufacturers are currently withdrawing from the Russian market without any major problems, a withdrawal from China – for example in the event that the dictatorship in Beijing attacks Taiwan – would hardly be possible without endangering the existence of companies such as VW, Mercedes or BMW.

For fear of future supply bottlenecks, but also because there are more and more legal requirements, more battery raw materials are to be recycled. BMW, for example, recently announced that it had acquired a stake in Mangrove Lithium through its venture capital subsidiary BMW i Ventures; a Canadian company specializing in refining partially recycled lithium. In China, the car manufacturer is also working on a closed raw materials cycle. Because the amount of battery scrap that will accumulate in the coming years is unbelievably high – it’s in the megaton range.

So that the accumulating mountains of scrap are not so obvious, the industry prefers to talk about “consumed gigawatt hours”. While this amount is currently just a few gigawatt hours per year, the IEA estimates that by 2040 it will be between 1200 and 1500 gigawatt hours per year. For comparison: Tesla’s first “Gigafactory” in California produces batteries for 20 gigawatt hours per year.

Another way to reduce dependence on raw materials is through alternative battery formats. But whether and when they will be ready for series production and available in large numbers remains difficult to plan. The automotive industry will therefore continue to rely on lithium-ion batteries for a long time.

The electric car helps to comply with the climate specifications – so the promise. However, a few simple numbers show the shaky footing of the emission reduction of e-mobility extrapolated in many studies: In 2021, despite various corona lockdowns, the emissions balance of the German electricity mix did not turn out as hoped, with emergency braking for traffic and the economy improved rather than worsened. The Federal Statistical Office Destatis sums it up: “In 2021, the majority of the electricity generated in Germany and fed into the power grid came from conventional energy sources. Electricity generation from conventional energy increased by 11.7% compared to 2020 and accounted for 57.6% of total electricity generation (2020: 52.9%). The feed-in from renewable energies, on the other hand, fell by 7.6% to a share of 42.4% (2020: 47.1%).”

Most important energy source in 2021: coal. Due to the gas embargo because of the Ukraine war and the shutdown of the last German nuclear power plants at the end of 2022, it is already certain that coal will be even more important, at least temporarily – which automatically also makes electric cars dirtier, because their “exhaust” is now standing in the power plant.

Wind and solar energy are now to be massively expanded. But without coal, gas or other fossil fuels, nothing will work for electric cars for many years to come, especially since Germany has to import electricity at times.

The designation of the e-car as a “zero-emission car” is therefore a fallacy, unless one refers exclusively to local emissions: Of course, the e-car has an unbeatable advantage here (apart from fine dust emissions when driving and braking). , which is particularly effective in city traffic.

Engine expert Professor Thomas Koch from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has long criticized the arithmetic tricks that the EU uses to improve the climate balance of electric cars. “Up until well into the 2030s, there will always be a fairy tale on average that an electric car will significantly improve the environmental balance, let alone the import costs of primary energy sources,” says the scientist.

Professor Thomas Willner from Hamburg also criticizes an overly optimistic forecast for the contribution to emissions from electric cars in traffic, because average values ​​are always calculated for the electricity mix instead of the emissions that actually occur. He calculates this using an example: “Let’s assume an electricity mix of 360 g CO2 per kWh of electricity. The fossil marginal electricity (mainly coal electricity) is then between 500 and 1100 g CO2 per kWh electricity, mostly in the upper range. That means: An e-car with a consumption of 15 to 25 kWh/100 km then actually comes to 75 to 275 g CO2/km instead of 54 to 90 g CO2/km, i.e. an average of 175 g CO2/km,” says Willner . “According to the fleet limit regulation, only 95 g CO2/km are permitted. In this regulation, however, e-cars are grossly incorrectly counted as zero g CO2/km,” criticizes the scientist.

However, e-car associations reject this criticism: the calculation of average values ​​is an established standard. Even if one were to accept this, the fact remains that due to the special energy situation in Germany, e-cars will cause more rather than fewer emissions in the coming years until the power supply is switched to “green” alternatives. The EU policy has thus tripped itself up, because the ever more stringent requirements for emission reduction cannot be achieved in reality.

Another risk of the electric-only strategy has not yet become apparent to many drivers. The traffic light coalition wants to have at least 15 million electric cars on German roads by 2030. This goal is already considered to be quite ambitious, especially since the number of e-car registrations is increasing, but the pace of growth is slowing down. However, the federal government rejects alternatives to the electric car – such as the operation of new and already built diesel and petrol vehicles with eco-fuels or climate fuel, so-called e-fuels. A significant risk for ADAC Technical President Karsten Schulze, as he explains in an interview with “Bild”: “We are trying to solve the global climate crisis nationally without looking outside the box. There will be markets in the world that are permanently dependent on e-fuels,” said Schulze.

If the climate goals are torn down, Germany would then have to take radical measures if the numbers are to be met. New speed limits such as 100 km/h on freeways or 30 km/h in the city are just one example. The EU’s climate policy could even mean driving bans: “We’ll soon be faced with further price increases, restrictions and bans. If you don’t have enough clean combustion engines and electric cars on the streets, CO2 emissions have to be limited by driving less,” says Schulze. Climate driving bans could then look like this, for example, so that drivers with even license plates are only allowed to drive on even days and vice versa.

Whether there will still be affordable family cars remains to be seen. So far, electric cars have been so expensive that an electric small or compact car often costs around 20,000 euros – after deducting the electric purchase premium, mind you. The classic mini petrol engine for 10,000 euros with low maintenance costs or the cheap family station wagon must inevitably be replaced by a battery-powered vehicle if a combustion engine is banned.

In fact, the range of small, actually economical and therefore environmentally friendly entry-level cars with petrol or even diesel engines is already quite thin; this does not only apply to the premium brands.

In addition to the expensive electric version, Fiat only offers the Fiat 500 with a single engine and, virtually out of the competition, as an Abarth sports version for enthusiasts who are concerned with driving fun and not with economy. Fiat boss Olivier François just announced in an interview with “Auto Motor

It looks bleak for the VW Up and in the future maybe even the larger Polo: It will probably no longer be available with normal drives, but only as an expensive electric version. Opel has already discontinued the Karl and Adam models, the smallest model is currently the Corsa.

The exciting question remains as to whether the electric drive will not simply be able to replace today’s petrol and diesel models in all price and vehicle classes in the future. So far, petrol and diesel cars with so-called “mild hybrid systems” have reached the current limit values ​​and consumption standards. Even with the new Euro 7 emissions standard (applicable from 2025), this is becoming more difficult to comply with – and the cars are therefore more expensive.

E-cars will reinforce the trend. Because the high purchase premiums, which are currently distorting the market, would suddenly cause the prices of the electric vehicles to skyrocket if they were to disappear. Alternatively, e-mobility would have to be promoted in the years to come. But then politicians could hardly argue that the technology is superior to others.

In addition, it is not at all attractive for car manufacturers to offer affordable vehicles with low profit margins, the higher the effort for this becomes. Mercedes has just announced that it will no longer offer anything below the C-Class: A and B-Class, whether electric or petrol, are dying out.

That would not be a hindrance for the stock market value mentioned at the beginning, on the contrary: Even Tesla boss Elon Musk, who wants mass mobilization with battery cars, had to realize that his company would not go down this path. Tesla wouldn’t make enough profit with a bread-and-butter electric car. The Model 3 will probably remain the entry point into the Tesla world for a long time, and it is far too expensive for low and normal earners.

In principle, it can of course not matter to the car manufacturers whether they no longer serve many customers. After all, Volkswagen or Daimler are still making record profits even with falling sales figures, as the last balance sheets showed. However, high purchase premiums and subsidies for the car industry would be all the less justifiable the more they only attract small parts of the population as customers.

Small car manufacturer Fiat has come to terms with the end of the combustion engine. Renault’s development director, Gilles Le Borgne, spoke in an interview with Auto Motor

Whether the EU parliamentarians will react to the many warnings will be seen on June 7th.

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