EU agrees to allow sales of e-fuel internal combustion engine cars past 2035

Germany had demanded an exemption for synthetic fuels.

Fabrizio Bensch / reuters

The European Union has agreed to make a carveout for synthetic fuels in its proposed 2035 ban on the sale of new combustion engine cars. Per the Associated Press, the bloc made a deal with Germany on Saturday to allow automakers to sell new ICE cars past 2035, provided those vehicles run on climate-neutral fuels only. The agreement ends a dispute that had threatened to scuttle the EU’s signature climate change policy. At the start of March, the European Parliament delayed a vote that would have codified the proposed ban after Germany, with support from automakers, said it would not back the mandate without an exemption for synthetic fuels.

“We have found an agreement with Germany on the future use of e-fuels in cars,” Frans Timmermans, the executive vice president of European Green Deal, posted to Twitter on Saturday. “We will work now on getting the CO2 standards for cars regulation adopted as soon as possible.” Environmental group Greenpeace criticized the agreement. “This lazy compromise undermines climate protection in transport, and it harms Europe,” the organization wrote in a statement.

As The Guardian notes, making synthetic fuels is incredibly energy intensive. Moreover, without direct air capture tech, e-fuel cars produce almost as many greenhouse emissions as their conventional ICE counterparts. According to one estimate published before Saturday’s announcement, a carveout for synthetic fuels could result in as many as 46 million fewer cumulative EV sales in Europe by 2050 “without providing any additional CO2 savings.” It’s also worth noting that no company is producing synthetic fuels at scale yet. That’s a significant point because e-fuels are unlikely to save European drivers money. By 2030, Transport & Environment estimates the average EU driver will pay €782 a year more to fill their car's tank with synthetic fuel than conventional gas.