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German minister doubts e-fuels’ climate neutrality by 2035

German minister doubts e-fuels' climate neutrality by 2035

Germany’s Transport Minister, Dr. Volker Wissing, has raised concerns about the feasibility of e-fuels achieving full climate neutrality by 2035. Addressing attendees at the E-Fuels Conference in Munich, Germany, Wissing supported the idea of registering new cars with internal combustion engines that use e-fuels after 2035, even if these fuels don’t achieve complete climate neutrality.

The conference, held on September 4, 2023, was an initiative by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport. Its primary goal was to foster collaboration among international policymakers, the industry, and the scientific community. The event aimed to expedite the market introduction of e-fuels by leveraging collective knowledge and insights.

Earlier in the year, European Union member states agreed on revised CO2 standards for cars. These new standards effectively ban the registration of new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2035 onwards. An exception exists for vehicles using entirely CO2 neutral fuels, a provision that Wissing played a role in shaping.

E-fuels, also known as synthetic fuels, are produced using electricity and CO2, sourced either from industrial activities or directly from the atmosphere. Proponents believe that e-fuels can replace fossil fuels without requiring changes to current engine designs. Wissing stated the indispensability of e-fuels in achieving climate goals, especially in sectors like shipping and aviation, according to an article by Euractiv.

Yet, the term “CO2 neutral” is a topic of contention within the European Commission. While some advocate for complete emissions elimination, others, including Wissing, feel that a 70% reduction compared to traditional fuels is a more achievable target.

Wissing also emphasised the importance of establishing global standards for e-fuels, advocating for consistent certification, quality, and sustainability benchmarks on an international scale.

While discussions about new vehicles are ongoing, Wissing remains firm in his belief that e-fuels play a vital role in lowering the carbon emissions of current vehicles. The upcoming EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) suggests a 0.5% target for e-fuels and hydrogen in transportation by 2030, mainly for the aviation sector. However, many in the industry argue that this goal is too modest and needs reevaluation.