Editor Blog: Reasons to Put ICE Ban on Ice!

Perhaps the biggest surprise about Germany’s call for the European Union to rethink its planned ICE ban for new vehicles is that it has taken so long for the heavily industrialized nation to realize what a truly daft idea the scheme is.

Because, while its automotive industry is staring at new car sales falling off a cliff in 2035 as motorists cling on to ICE technology that provides a lifespan far in excess of any BEV, the ban will increase urban air pollution, not reduce it. As emissions experts have long pointed out, most emissions on a modern ICE powered vehicle do not come from the tailpipe but from microplastics from brakes and tires that can be breathed in within a few meters of a highway.

Worse still, unlike carbon particulates from ICE tailpipes, these emissions do not get harmlessly washed away by rain but end up in our seas and rivers where they enter the food chain, and ultimately us, with untold consequences. So, when ICE technology is virtually carbon zero using bio, synthetic or e-fuel fuels, the BEV will be emitting more emissions, owing to its far greater weight, than its equivalent ICE peers. Bosch, too, is confident its next generation of ICE technology will pass vehicle emissions monitors registering no more emissions than that from a BEV.

Reuters reports that Germany has asked the EU to propose rules allowing ICE powered vehicles that run on CO2-neutral fuels to be sold in Europe after 2035. The ban, put into EU law last year, aimed at speeding up Europe’s shift to BEVs to combat climate change even though producing BEVs run on mainly fossil-fuel created electricity, as most of Europe currently is, produces more CO2 over its lifespan than the equivalent ICE vehicle. Now Germany is seeking exemption from the ban for combustion engines that run on fuels produced using electricity, or e-fuels.

E-fuels can be made using captured CO2 emissions with the consideration that this balances out the CO2 emitted when the fuel is combusted, effectively making them ‘CO2 neutral’. If agreed, this means ICE powered new models that are suitably modified to use e-fuels could still be sold in the European market. While Germany’s Volkswagen Group has pledged to produce only electric cars in Europe from 2033, rival BMW has warned against setting dates to ban fossil fuel-based car sales.

Germany’s state secretary for transport, Michael Theurer, speaking to a meeting of EU transport and energy ministers in Stockholm, said his country was convinced battery electric vehicles are the “way to go” but wanted to see other CO2-free technologies also supported. He added: “The commission should come forward with a proposal how e-fuels can be used, or how combustion engines which are run with climate-neutral fuels can be organized. We need hydrogen technology and also e-fuels, especially in heavy vehicles, in truck transport.”

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said many in the transport sector shared Germany’s concerns. “I think the discussion is not closed, even though the vote was taken,” she told a news conference. Let’s hope good sense, rather than the shrill rantings of vested self-interested lobbyists, prevail in the discussion and recognizes the vital role ICE has still to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least in the short to medium term.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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