Tuesday, March 21, 2023
News ICE engines ban by 2035: the debate goes on in Europe

ICE engines ban by 2035: the debate goes on in Europe

  • The European commission, Germany and Italy will continue the debate.

  • Porsche and Ferrari are behind the cancellation of the vote.

  • Synthetic fuels could get integrated in the decarbonization efforts for Europe.


Earlier this week, the final vote on the internal combustion engine ban from 2035 was scheduled to take place, on March 7th to be precise, but it did not happen. This last-minute cancellation will force negotiations between the European Commission, Germany and Italy, the two nations behind this unplanned change.

The issue here is to try to include synthetic fuels – or e-fuels – in the agreement planned for the whole continent. In fact, behind the German and Italian governments are the prestigious automotive divisions Porsche and Ferrari, both of which are invested in the “e-fuels” project.

2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS | Photo: Porsche

It is worth mentioning that the two nations strongly associated with the automobile had already approved the project to ban internal combustion engines by 2035, but it seems that the lobby of the two sports car manufacturers was enough to slow down the adoption of the legislation… and ultimately to revive the debate.

The veto of Porsche and Ferrari also shakes up the massive investments of most automakers that have already poured a lot of money into the development and assembly of pure electric vehicles. In fact, even Porsche and Ferrari have already invested significant sums in their respective fleets of electrified vehicles. On the other hand, Porsche is also working on the synthetic fuels file, the German carmaker being a minority shareholder in a plant producing these famous fuels made from CO2 and H2, the establishment being based in Chile.

Ferrari SF90 Spider
Ferrari SF90 Spider | Photo: Ferrari

According to a Porsche representative interviewed by Automotive News, the current car fleet should also be part of the industry’s decarbonization efforts. By investing in biofuel technology, the industry could accelerate the transportation sector’s environmental goals.

For its part, Ferrari declared synthetic fuels would allow it to continue developing internal combustion engines in its sports cars, which are part of the prancing horse brand’s heritage.

Pro-e-fuelers say their solution is essentially renewable electricity converted to liquid fuel. The process combines carbon dioxide with hydrogen that has been separated from water in a process powered by renewable energy, such as hydroelectricity for example. However, even though the mechanism removes carbon dioxide, at the other end of the spectrum, when the synthetic fuel is burned in the combustion engine, there is once again a release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

And that’s not all, because there is also the cost associated with the production of synthetic fuels. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the cost of a liter of synthetic fuel would be around $7 per liter of gasoline on a commercial scale. According to the ICCT, a car powered by synthetic fuel would consume more energy than an electric vehicle, simply because it would require more electricity to move.

But there is hope for another form of transportation, according to Roland Dittmeyer, director of the Institute for Microprocessing Engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. Dittmeyer said in an interview with theverge.com that synthetic fuels could be an alternative for a motorist who does not have access to a recharging network connected to a reliable and clean electrical grid.

The aviation industry, he said, would be well advised to look at synthetic fuels, as battery technology on board aircraft is too cumbersome now to consider a possible shift to electric power.

In this regard, the Formula One championship has already indicated that it will use “e-fuels” starting with the 2026 season, but this change will have virtually no major impact on the environmental footprint of the world’s most prominent motorsport series. That’s because 99 percent of F1’s emissions come from the series’ transportation between each race, including aviation and road transport.

In short, the debate surrounding synthetic fuels is far from over in Europe, and indeed globally. The conclusion of this saga could very well dictate where the industry is going between now and 2035.

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