Automobile

EU Plans to Phase Out Internal-Combustion Cars by 2035

  • An EU plan seeks to mandate average new-car emissions to drop 55 percent from 2030 and by 100 percent from 2035.
  • New-car sales from 2035 onward would effectively be zero-emission under the proposed legislation, which still has to be voted on.
  • The plan would also mandate EV charging stations every 37 miles along major routes, and hydrogen fueling stations every 93 miles.

    Following a number of countries’ plans to gradually ban internal-combustion-engined vehicles by certain years, the European Union itself has advanced legislation that would seek to phase out such vehicles by 2035, as part of a greater climate initiative. The European Commission is set to introduce proposals for binding emission targets within the member states, including a 55 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, and 100 percent cut by 2035. That proposed 100 percent ban would effectively end sales of gas- and diesel-engined models, as well as hybrids.

    The proposed framework is part of a greater EU climate effort aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

    “A combination of measures is required to tackle rising emissions in road transport to complement emissions trading,” the European Commission said in a statement outlining the goals of the European Green Deal. “Stronger CO2 emissions standards for cars and vans will accelerate the transition to zero-emission mobility by requiring average emissions of new cars to come down by 55 percent from 2030 and by 100 percent from 2035 compared to 2021 levels. As a result, all new cars registered as of 2035 will be zero-emission.”

    While the year 2035 might still seem some distance away, part of the proposed EU legislation would drastically boost the number of public charging stations among the member states far sooner, mandating a minimum distance of 60 kilometers (37 miles) between charging stations on major routes by 2025, and every 150 kilometers (93 miles) for hydrogen fuel stations.

    Notably, the plan appears aimed at cars and vans, as stated above, so heavy trucks and buses would perhaps be exempt from these requirements to some degree, even though a number of automakers have already fielded electric buses in Europe.

    The plan would also seek to use carbon pricing to reduce emissions, not only when it comes to cars, but cruise ships and office buildings.

    “We chose carbon pricing as a clear guiding and market-based instrument with a social compensation,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “And the principle is simple: Emission of CO2 must have a price—a price on CO2 that incentivizes consumers, producers, and innovators to choose the clean technologies, to go towards the clean and sustainable products. And we know that carbon pricing works. Our existing Emissions Trading System has already helped significantly to reduce emissions in industry and in power generation. So we will strengthen the existing system in these sectors. And we will make Emissions Trading System applicable to aviation and extend it to the maritime.”

    It certainly helps that a number of European automakers have already committed to introduce only electric and electrified vehicles in the coming years, but the proposed legislation is not expected to give hybrids and plug-in hybrids much of a reprieve, perhaps confirming the views of some industry observers that hybrids have been a compliance-aimed half-measure for quite some time.

    It also helps that some individual cities in Europe have already adopted plans to ban certain vehicles from city centers, with these steps designed to promise zero-emissions vehicle usage in urban environments. However, these efforts have been piecemeal and have not extended to all major capitals of EU member states.

    Several prominent lobby groups remain skeptical of the plan’s viability.

    “The proposed CO2 reduction target for cars of 55 percent by 2030 (based on 2021 levels) will be very challenging, and certainly requires a corresponding binding target for member states to build up the required charging and refueling infrastructure,” the ACEA association of European automakers said in a statement. “Moreover, the new CO2 target will significantly speed up the structural transformation of the automotive value chain, requiring careful management to minimize the impact on our economy and jobs.”

    “The current proposal for an even bigger cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 requires a massive further increase in market demand for electric vehicles in a short timeframe,” said Oliver Zipse, ACEA President and BMW CEO. “Without significantly increased efforts by all stakeholders—including member states and all involved sectors—the proposed target is simply not viable.”

    All EU member states must approve the proposed plan for it to become law, so it’s still far from being set in stone. A number of EU states have indicated in the past that a longer timeline could be needed for phase-out timelines of this type.

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