EU approves effective ban on new combustion engine cars from 2035

European Union lawmakers have reached a political agreement on legislation that will effectively ban the production of new combustion engine cars and vans from 2035.

As one of the world’s largest trading blocs and home to some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, the EU’s decision will have a huge impact on global transport, pushing the industry even more firmly towards a fully electric future. The legislation will now have to be formally approved by the EU Council and the Parliament, though it’s expected only minor changes will be made.

The key requirements are that, by 2030, new cars reduce their C02 emissions by 55 percent and new vans by 50 percent (in both cases these emissions are compared to 2021 levels). Then, by 2035, both new cars and vans must reduce C02 emissions by 100 percent.

These are the principal targets, but there are additional caveats. For example, manufacturers that produce fewer than 10,000 cars or 22,000 vans annually will not have to meet the interim 2030 target for reduced emissions — only the final 2035 target. This is the so-called “Ferrari clause,” intended to protect small automakers which produce fewer models per year than larger manufacturers.

There is also a non-binding proposal in the agreement to allow the manufacture of vehicles “running exclusively on CO2-neutral fuels” (also known as “e-fuels”) beyond 2035 if these vehicles fall “outside the scope of the fleet standards.”

Some critics have suggested this clause is a serious loophole; others that it is merely a way to placate certain factions in Europe that will not effect the legislation’s major goal of eliminating emissions from EU vehicles. The latter point out that the stipulation that these vehicles must fall “outside the scope of the fleet standards” suggests that only speciality vehicles, like ambulances and fire engines, will be able to take advantage of this carve-out.

EU lawmakers said the wording on this proposal would be tightened before the legislation officially becomes law, hopefully shedding more light on exactly what it means.

Dutch centrist politician Jan Huitema, who negotiated on behalf of the European Parliament in writing the deal, praised the agreement and said it would “create clarity for the car industry and stimulate innovation and investments for car manufacturers.”

“I am pleased that we reached an agreement with the Council on an ambitious revision of the targets for 2030 and supported a 100 percent emission reduction target in 2035. This is crucial to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and make clean driving more affordable for our citizens,” said Huitema in a press statement.

The legislation is the first main part of the EU’s “Fit for 55” project to emerge from negotiations. This is a package of proposed laws intended to reduce EU emissions by 55 percent by 2030, with the end goal of making the EU carbon neutral by 2050. Other parts of the package will tackle issues like land use, creating greener fuels for aviation and shipping, and offering new funding to develop renewable energy tech.

Meanwhile, other parts of the world are also working towards their own ban on new combustion engines. The UK is currently planning to ban the sale of these vehicles by 2030, while California — the world’s fifth biggest economy when compared to nation states — is targeting a ban of new combustion engines for 2035. It’s thought that other US states may follow California’s lead in the years to come.