EU countries approve ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035

Member states gave their final approval on Tuesday (28 March) to a regulation that will ban the sale of carbon-emitting cars and vans after 2035, finalising one of the most controversial elements of the EU’s Green Deal.

EU countries approve ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035

The vote ensures that currently dominant combustion engine technology will be replaced mainly with electric vehicles (EVs) in the coming decades, slashing the carbon footprint of Europe’s road transport.

Under the regulation, new cars must achieve 55% CO2 emission reductions from 2030 to 2034 compared to 2021, while vans must achieve a 50% reduction.

From 2035, all cars and vans sold in the EU must have 100% CO2 emission reductions.

The regulation maintains a derogation for small-volume manufacturers, such as certain sports car brands, which exempts them from meeting the interim CO2 reductions until the end of 2035.

“The new rules will bring opportunities for cutting-edge technologies and create the momentum for industry to invest in a fossil-free future,” said Romina Pourmokhtari, the climate minister for Council Presidency holder Sweden.

EU climate chief Frans Timmermans praised the vote, saying that the EU “has taken an important step towards zero-emission mobility.”

“The direction is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions. It brings a big contribution to climate neutrality by 2050 and is a key part of the EU Green Deal,” he tweeted.

The regulation passed in the Council with only Poland voting against it, though Bulgaria, Italy and Romania abstained. A similar vote in the European Parliament took place in February, with the Parliament narrowly accepting the regulation.

Key controversies

The controversial regulation was scheduled to be formally approved by members of the European Parliament in February but was postponed after several member states, including the EU’s most populous nation, Germany, signalled that they would no longer support the regulation.

In exchange for its support, Germany demanded that the European Commission provide assurances that a non-binding recital clause in the text that covers using e-fuels in cars would be respected. Italy, meanwhile, pushed for guarantees on the use of biofuels.E-fuels, also known as synthetic fuels, can be classed as carbon neutral if made with renewable electricity and carbon extracted from the atmosphere.

After weeks of internal discussions, the European Commission obliged Germany’s request, setting out ways cars running exclusively on e-fuels can be registered for sale after 2035. However, Italy’s request to include biofuels was not honoured, as the Commission does not see it as a carbon-neutral fuel.

In a statement, Italian Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin said that the Commission’s “declaration of synthetic fuels only represents too restrictive an interpretation, which does not still allow full implementation of the principle of technological neutrality for which Italy has always fought”, adding that the country will continue to fight for the inclusion of biofuels.

To make the agreement legally binding, the Commission will present a delegated act to set out how e-fuel vehicles can count towards car CO2 targets.

Delegated acts, which are used to cover highly technical issues, are not subject to debate from parliamentarians. However, the European Parliament and member states can reject a delegated act outright.

It’s understood that if the delegated act is rejected, the Commission will put forward an amendment to the regulation, which will be subject to the usual legislative scrutiny.

Under the agreement offered to Germany, the Commission said it would allow cars running exclusively on e-fuels to be registered post-2035, meaning that technology must be included to prevent the car from starting if it is fuelled with petrol or diesel.

While such technology is not available on the market yet, it is understood that it would work similarly to alcohol fail-safe devices, which can shut off the vehicle if the driver fails a breathalyser test.

To prevent tampering, the device will always work while the car is being driven.

Parliament reacts

The European Parliament rapporteur on the file, Jan Huitema, a Dutch lawmaker with the centrist Renew group, hinted that the Parliament would scrutinise the proposal on e-fuels before providing its assent.

“The text of the agreement that I negotiated on behalf of the European Parliament remains unchanged and sets a clear target for 100% zero-emission new cars and vans after 2035. Any possible future proposals concerning e-fuels will be thoroughly assessed, both on their content and their legal basis,” he said in a statement.

The Greens in the European Parliament hailed the agreement as a “good day for the future of Europe’s industrial competitiveness” but took aim at Germany’s last-minute intervention in the legislative process.

“In order to strengthen their dwindling political support, the German Liberals have caused massive damage to the trustworthiness of the German government,” said MEP Philippe Lamberts.

“This cannot happen again, lest the robustness of the EU legislative process is permanently harmed.”

Sean Goulding Carroll ,

This article first appeared on, an edie content partner

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