Europe's ICE truck ban in danger with new fuel loophole from EU Parliament (2024)

Europe's ICE truck ban in danger with new fuel loophole from EU Parliament (1)

MEPs of the European Union voted to adopt strict new rules regarding emissions from trucking and busses today, seeking a 90% reduction in total fleet CO2 emissions by 2040 — but there’s a big loophole involved. While initial planning from the EU Commission sought to categorize effectively all ICE trucks and busses as CO2-emitting, the EU Parliament has other ideas.

Under the proposed rules adopted today, medium and heavy-duty trucks using biofuels and e-fuels will be exempt from fleet CO2 calculations, and in effect considered zero emission. Busses using biomethane will be similarly exempted. The change was adopted at the behest of more conservative ministers in Parliament, including those from the German CDU party. Their reasoning is, at best, duplicitous: Ministers in support claim not to want to take “green” fuel technologies under development off the table, but it’s plain that truck manufacturers and trucking interests are the key beneficiaries of such a change.

Biofuels (fuels derived from organic waste products, crops, or biomass decomposition) and e-fuels (synthetically manufactured replacements for gasoline and diesel) are deeply controversial in the context of sustainable transportation. While both theoretically come with far smaller carbon footprints than traditionally refined crude oil products (gas, diesel), both also mean vehicles that produce emissions.

Proponents of e-fuel argue that the production of such fuels is sustainable and carbon-neutral by design, because they use carbon capture and renewable-powered hydro-electrolysis to synthesize end compounds like e-methanol, e-kerosene, and e-methane. Biofuel, on the other hand, is a very squishy term — technically, hugely environmentally impactful practices like industrial-scale corn or sugar cane agriculture can be used to make biofuels. After all, they’re made from plants. But it’s not clear what the working definition of biofuels will be under the EU Parliament’s proposed rules or if sustainability requirements will be built in, so it’s possible naked greenwashing will be skirted. Biofuels derived from waste wood chip biomass or spent food oil are at least putting someone else’s trash to work. But, again, the end product must still be burned and thus produce some level of harmful emissions, particularly CO2.

The rules adopted by EU Parliament today are not binding, and must still be negotiated with the EU member state councils into final legislation. But it’s clear that there’s a substantial lobby pushing to keep ICE trucks on the road in Europe, and it’s all but certain that the truck manufacturers and many of their largest customers are pushing hard on this.

The rules, otherwise, are still far stricter than anything you’ll likely see the US adopt this century. By 2030, Europe is targeting a 45% reduction in fleet CO2 emissions for trucks and busses. By 2035, the target increases to 65%. Finally, in 2040, 90% reduction in fleet CO2 emissions must be achieved.

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One question: how you are making sure that the trucks are fueling exclusively on green fuels and not the traditional grey ones? diesel or biodiesel burn the same

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For more about the decision, check out the reporting over at Electrive and the EU Parliament’s press release.

Electrek’s take

The EU’s targets for fleet emissions reductions in trucking and bussing are admirable — on paper. 90% CO2 reduction for some of the biggest emitters on the road by 2040 is a seriously lofty goal. But when you put in a carve-out for e-fuels and biofuels (with the latter, again, being kind of fuzzy as a category), this mandate starts to lose some of its teeth.

For one, such an exemption all but guarantees massive investment in e-fuel and biofuel commercialization — an investment in continuing to produce vehicles that put CO2 and other harmful compounds directly into our atmosphere. Dress up the arithmetic any way you want, a truck belching e-fuel is putting a ton of CO2 back in the air. And biofuels are an even more complex topic, with some being far dirtier than others when weighing both production and end combustion.

Counterarguments about the growth sustainability of battery electric infrastructure and the struggles to commercialize true zero-emission fuels like hydrogen should be heard out, but nothing about this exception feels sourced from rigorous academic investigation into these topics. It sounds like trucking interests are just concerned they could be squeezed and disrupted by radically necessary action to preserve our biosphere and restore local and global air quality.

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Europe's ICE truck ban in danger with new fuel loophole from EU Parliament (2024)


Europe's ICE truck ban in danger with new fuel loophole from EU Parliament? ›

Europe's ICE truck ban in danger with new fuel loophole from EU Parliament. MEPs of the European Union voted to adopt strict new rules regarding emissions from trucking and busses today, seeking a 90% reduction in total fleet CO2 emissions by 2040 — but there's a big loophole involved.

Is Europe banning ICE cars? ›

In March last year, Germany and the European Union reached a compromise on a proposed ban starting in 2035. Automakers can still sell ICE vehicles if they run on e-fuel.

Is Europe going to ban diesel cars? ›

European member states have formally approved a new law requiring that all new car and vans sold in Europe must be zero-emission by 2035 after the European Council voted to adopt the proposal March 28.

What will happen to gas cars after 2035? ›

Can I still drive my gasoline car after 2035? Yes. Even after 2035, gasoline cars can still be driven in California, registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and sold as a used car to a new owner.

What will happen to ICE cars after 2035? ›

Entire fleet of government-owned vehicles with ICE engines will be phased-out and will be replaced with 100% all-electric vehicles by 2035-2040. Some politicians in some countries have made broad announcements but have implemented no legislation and therefore there is no phase-out and no binding legislation.

Why doesn't the US use diesel cars? ›

Diesel engines are harder to start in cold weather, and if they contain glow plugs, diesel engines can require you to wait before starting the engine so the glow plugs can heat up. Diesel engines are much noisier and tend to vibrate. Diesel fuel is less readily available than gasoline.

Why is Europe banning diesel? ›

The EU wants to make sure that zero-emission cars and vans are the norm by 2050. To reach its climate neutrality goal by 2050, the EU is taking action to reduce emissions from cars as road transport accounts for one fifth of the EU's CO2 emissions.

Why is diesel so cheap in Europe? ›

Note that taxes also explain why diesel tends to be cheaper than gasoline in Europe. Europeans wanted to provide incentives for motorists to gravitate toward higher-efficiency diesel engines, and they did so by taxing gasoline at a higher rate.

Are ICE cars going to be banned? ›

SEMA opposes the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) "Advanced Clean Cars II" (ACCII) regulations that would ban the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2035. ACC II requires that 35% of new cars, SUVs, and small trucks sold in California must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) starting in 2026.

Are ICE cars being banned? ›

California ICE Ban Timeline

California's new CARB policy requires that 35 percent of new passenger vehicle sales in California must consist of zero-emissions vehicles by 2026, with the requirement increasing to 68 percent by 2030, and 100% in 2035.

How much longer will ICE cars be around? ›

Several U.S. states have also said they'll prohibit sales of ICE vehicles after 2035. The U.S. has a national goal proposed of two-thirds of vehicles sold by 2032 to be zero-emissions.

Will old ICE cars be banned? ›

With increased demand and government regulations, a number of leading auto companies have shared timelines for when they plan to phase out ICE vehicles. General Motors has said it will sell only zero-emission cars by the time California's ban takes effect in 2035.

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