How does banning one technology save the entire planet?
The European Union has remained true to its word, for better or worse. The European Commission regulatory body has officially proposed to ban sales of gasoline and diesel-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 as part of efforts to combat C02 emissions and reach net-zero by 2050. It's not like automakers didn't see this coming, but they also didn't waste time criticizing the decision.
The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), which consists of 15 major automakers, not only made clear its dissatisfaction but also the proposal's lack of depth. "We urge all EU institutions to focus on innovation rather than mandating, or effectively banning, a specific technology," ACEA President Oliver Zipse said.
Zipse is also CEO of BMW. "Without significantly increased efforts by all stakeholders - including member states and all involved sectors - the proposed target is simply not viable."
Automakers and suppliers argue that banning one type of technology to cut C02 emissions will not save the planet. Furthermore, combustion engines can be sustainable if they run on renewable fuels, such as Porsche's synthetic fuel that's currently in development. Pure battery electric vehicles, like the Porsche Taycan and the BMW i4, are not necessarily climate neutral if the source of their charging energy comes from fossil fuels, like coal.
In 2019, for example, Europe's main energy source came from power stations burning fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and oil. Germany and neighboring Poland just so happen to be the continent's largest coal producers. Passenger vehicles account for around 12 percent of the EU's total C02 emissions.
What the European Commission should really be focusing on is innovation in the areas of electricity and renewable fuels, critics argue, not banning a technology that can be further improved. But not all automakers are opposed to the Commission's proposal.
Volvo, itself planning a combustion engine-free lineup by 2030, said it's time "to phase out technology of the past." Daimler's own development chief noted the goals are ambitious but "not unrealistic." He specifically noted that setting up the necessary charging infrastructure is itself a huge undertaking.
The Commission's decision could have implications for other countries as well, including the US. Automakers don't like making different models with different powertrains for multiple markets. They prefer, and mostly now utilize, a global one-size-fits-all approach, save for some relatively minor trim differences.