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EU Officially Approves its Zero-Emission by 2035 Policy

April 10, 2023
Within 12 years all auto manufacturers that sell cars and vans to customers in the European Union will have to switch over to zero-emission vehicles.

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Last October, the European Parliament and Council introduced a new agreement focused on making all new EU cars and vans zero-emission beginning in 2035. As a starting point, the new carbon dioxide (CO2) standards also require average emissions of new cars to come down by 55% by 2030, and new vans by 50% by 2030.

At the time, the European Commission put its stamp of approval on the agreement, which marked the first step in the adoption of the “Fit for 55” legislative proposals that the Commission rolled out in 2021. Fit for 55 refers to the EU’s target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030​. The proposed package aims to bring EU legislation in line with the 2030 goal.

The Final Adoption

In March, the Commission welcomed the final adoption of the proposal to make all new cars and vans registered in Europe zero-emission beginning in 2035. Among the EC’s key arguments in favor of the new rule:

  • Transport is responsible for one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, and road transport makes up 70% of that amount.
  • Stricter CO2 emission performance standards for new cars and vans will bring down those emissions, helping Europe reach climate neutrality by 2050.
  • The zero-emission policy will also help tackle air pollution across the Union and keep the automotive industry innovative and competitive with the rest of the world.

“The final vote today marks an important step towards zero-emission mobility in the EU. The direction of travel is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions,” said the Commission’s EVP Frans Timmermans in a statement. “The new rules on CO2-emissions from cars and vans are a key part of the European Green Deal and will be a big contribution to our target of being climate neutral by 2050.”

The new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and entered into force.

Not Everyone is in Agreement

Not all EU countries are in favor of the new law. According to BBC News, Poland voted against it, while Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained from voting. The new law had been expected to make it impossible to sell internal combustion engine cars in the EU from 2035, but Germany won an exemption for vehicles that run on e-fuels, which capture CO2 emissions to balance out the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted in an engine.

The exemption won by Germany offers a potential lifeline to traditional vehicles - although e-fuels are not yet produced at scale, Reuters reports. Later this year the EC will address how sales of e-fuel-only cars can continue after 2035. Such cars will have to use technology to prevent them from starting when filled with petrol or diesel, Reuters points out.

Making the Switch

In the US, President Biden has said he supports the proliferation of electric vehicles, and in 2021 he signed an executive order setting a goal that half of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. in 2030 be zero-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, NPR reports.

Several US states have also announced future bans on gas-powered cars. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington have all said they would prohibit the sale of new gas-powered vehicles beginning in 2035.

“The shift from combustion engines to electric vehicles won’t be as easy as turning a key,” NPR points out. “Some of the challenges of switching to zero-emission vehicles include the persistently high cost of electric cars, China’s dominance of the electric battery supply chain and a lack of charging infrastructure.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.