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Car engines are dying, the future is electric – POLITICO

BRUSSELS – The German government is trying to secure a future for the combustion engine, but it’s probably too late, Renault’s CEO warned on Tuesday. Indeed, automakers have already invested billions of dollars in batteries and hydrogen.

Speaking at a POLITICO event, Luca de Meo, who is also president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), said automakers had already responded to EU plans to impose a policy zero-emission sales program for cars and vans from 2035 – effectively banning the sale of new polluting cars – funneling billions of euros into clean vehicle technology.

“I don’t think there’s anybody…developing a completely new engine in Europe,” de Meo said. “Nobody, you know, is developing a new combustion engine from scratch in Europe. … All the money goes to electric technology or hydrogen.”

All three main EU institutions have backed the EU’s zero CO2 sales target by 2035, but late action by Germany – along with Italy, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic – suspended final approval. Berlin is currently in direct negotiations with the European Commission over a solution that could provide a loophole for e-fuels – a synthetic alternative to petrol and diesel.

The issue threatens to escalate into all-out war within the bloc ahead of a European leaders’ summit this week.

Italy has expanded the demands of the German government by asking the Commission – in a document seen by POLITICO – to prepare a detailed workaround for sales of cars running on all carbon-neutral fuels, including e-fuels and some types of biofuels.

In an address to parliament lawmakers in Rome, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Tuesday claimed the 2035 ban was “too ideological” and warned that efforts to green the national economy “will take us directly to the de-industrialization”.

But France and others have said they want to stick to the original 2035 deal, as has the European Commission, which told POLITICO on Tuesday it would not reopen green car legislation agreed to in the year last.

While some automakers, including Renault, initially wanted to delay the 2035 release date, most have already announced plans to switch to all-electric sales in Europe by 2030.

Volvo, Ford and Audi are among those who have announced the final end of their production of all but electric vehicle models in Europe in a few years, putting most of the industry majors on track to end sales. polluting vehicles on the continent over the next decade. Renault said it was preparing to offer electric-only cars across the continent by 2030.

Instead of reinventing the engine, the main focus is to catch up with China, which de Meo says is a decade ahead in electric vehicle battery technology.

De Meo stressed that he was in favor of “technology neutrality”, which means that European emissions legislation should not dictate how carmakers will reach the zero emissions target in 2035. things, the rules effectively mean that only batteries and hydrogen are viable alternatives to gasoline and gasoline. .

While e-fuels are currently “kind of a niche solution” because production is still minimal and the industry needs to strengthen supply chains, they are “an opportunity”, the auto executive said. “As always, you are starting from a niche.”

Yet the Renault CEO agreed that electric vehicles are on track to become the market-dominant solution to the zero-emissions challenge.

The trend away from engines is irreversible as suppliers – which have tens of thousands of employees across Europe – move away from the combustion engine, he said.

“All Tier 1 Suppliers [which provide equipment directly to car manufacturers] completely abandon investments in combustion engines,” he said. “You will see the wave coming.

Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.

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