Before the EU bans all new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in 2035, it should examine in 2026 how far electromobility has really advanced the climate goals. The great dependence on China for raw materials also causes skepticism on the part of EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.
It was only a few days ago that the EU made a grand gesture to proclaim the end of the internal combustion engine for cars: From 2035, only electric cars should be allowed in all countries of the community, climate-neutral e-fuels should not be recognised. However, a back door was kept open: the “review” of the measures planned for 2026. Now it’s clear: by then, at the latest, everything could turn out very differently. In any case, in an interview with the “Brussels Playbook” of the “Politico” website, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton set the alarm bells ringing in the electric car lobby.
Breton warned that the switch to pure electric mobility would destroy more than 600,000 jobs. As early as 2030, well before the planned ban, 15 times the amount of lithium, four times the amount of cobalt and graphite and three times the amount of nickel will be needed – “an enormous consumption of raw materials”, according to the Frenchman. In addition, 20 to 25 percent more electricity is needed, but producing it with gas or coal makes no sense from a climate perspective.
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Even if the electricity is generated cleanly, electric cars are involved in emissions – due to the increased particle emissions from tires and brakes, according to Breton. In Germany, too, one of the most active drivers behind the ban on combustion engines, the CO2 balance of electric cars will deteriorate for the time being: in the spring of 2023, the traffic light government will shut down all nuclear power plants that supply extremely low-CO2 green electricity and have to because of this the reduced gas deliveries from Russia therefore rely more heavily on coal-fired power generation. The expansion of wind and solar energy will not be able to compensate for this anytime soon and will still need a backup through base load-capable energy generation.
Another problem: Electric cars are often much heavier than conventionally powered vehicles. An electrically powered Mercedes-Benz EQA, a crossover SUV based on the compact GLA, weighs more than an S-Class. Breton also pointed out the serious deficits in the expansion of the charging infrastructure. Of these, seven million charging points would be required, at the moment there are a total of 350,000. And 70 percent of them are in just three countries, namely France, Germany and the Netherlands.
So phasing out the internal combustion engine is not a good idea at the moment – because even if it succeeds in Europe, other continents will still need clean engines that run on caloric fuels for a very long time. “I recommend that European companies continue to build internal combustion engines,” said Breton. As far as Europe is concerned, the EU internal market commissioner wants to set up hard criteria within the next few weeks with which progress can be measured. The switch to e-mobility has so many implications for the industry that the EU cannot afford to fail. If the Commission finds that this line is missed, the exit date must be postponed – and “without taboos”.
However, the car manufacturers have already sealed their exit plans for the EU market – VW, for example, will phase out combustion engines by 2033 at the latest, others like Opel earlier. However, this only applies to the EU market and not to other countries such as China or the USA.
This article was written by Jens Meiners, cen
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