Planned shift to battery and hydrogen power requires expansion of charging infrastructure and secured raw material supply.
Yesterday, the European Union decided on the definitive end of the internal combustion engine for cars and vans from 2035 (we reported). At the same time, the EU Commission presented a proposal on how trucks and buses could also be operated in a climate-friendly way in the future, i.e. without CO2 emissions. However, a complete ban on the sale of combustion engines is not envisaged here.
Emissions from new heavy-duty vehicles are to be reduced by 90 percent by 2040, compared with 2019 levels, and interim targets are planned for 2030 and 2035 (emission reductions of 45 and 65 percent, respectively). All new city buses are also to be emission-free by 2030. Currently, buses and trucks are responsible for more than six percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and more than 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in road transport, the Commission’s statement said.
The targeted new fleet limit would make classic trucks with diesel engines a rare sight on the roads, and the EU is relying instead on electric drives powered by batteries or fuel cells. The latter, in turn, consume hydrogen. The switch will help secure the EU’s leadership position in truck and bus manufacturing by setting a common regulatory framework, the Commission said. The proposal must now be discussed by the Parliament and member states.
Proposal for Climate-Friendly Heavy Goods Traffic Receives Mixed Response
Environmental organizations criticized the decision not to set a 100 percent target for clean trucks, and some politicians, such as EU Climate Action Commissioner Frans Timmermanns, had also advocated for one, Euractiv writes. On the other hand, the European People’s Party (EPP), which includes Germany’s CDU/CSU, and the industry association CLEPA, which represents automotive suppliers, welcomed the proposal for its openness to technology. German Transport Minister Volker Wissing of the FDP also made a strong case for the use of so-called e-fuels, i.e. synthetically produced fuels, both for passenger cars and in heavy-duty transport.
Automotive Industry: Competitiveness Also Requires a Committed Raw Materials Policy
Hildegard Müller, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), called the draft legislation “extremely ambitious in view of the charging and hydrogen infrastructure – which has unfortunately been insufficient up to now.” To maintain the competitiveness of Europe as a business location, she also called for a committed raw materials, energy and trade policy.
As with battery-powered e-cars, the rare earth metal neodymium is generally used for the motor of fuel cell cars. In addition, platinum or palladium are needed as catalyst materials for the cell. The demand for these strategic raw materials would increase significantly in the case of a switch to CO2-neutral drives in heavy-duty transport.