Electric Vehicles

ACEA: Banning a Single Technology is Not a Rational Way Forward

By Boris Kamchev - Jul 23, 2021

Europe’s automakers balked at the European Union’s recently announced climate and energy policies for net-zero emissions by 2050. Banking on a single battery-powered technology by banning internal combustion engines “is not a rational way forward,” the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) cautioned last week after the policies were unveiled.

”The proposed CO2 reduction target for cars of 55% by 2030 (based on 2021 levels) will be very challenging, and certainly requires a corresponding binding target for member states to build up the required charging and refueling infrastructure,” ACEA said in a press release.

ACEA is a leading trade group for the continent’s major carmakers and develops industry performance specifications for lubricants and other fluids used in on-road vehicles.

The association also anticipated the need for negotiations with the EU’s 27 members focused on technology openness and transition for the bloc’s many thousands of autoworkers.

ACEA argues that the new CO2 target and the proposed rush in the structural transformation of the automotive value chain would require “careful management to minimize the impact on our economy and jobs.”

“The current proposal for an even bigger cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 requires a massive further increase in market demand for electric vehicles in a short timeframe,” said Oliver Zipse, president of the ACEA and CEO of BMW, a German carmaker.

“Without significantly increased efforts by all stakeholders – including member states and all involved sectors – the proposed target is simply not viable,” he said of the European Union’s plan for carbon neutrality by 2050, also known as Fit for 55.  

ACEA said that all options – including “highly efficient” ICEs, battery EVs and hybrids, as well as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – must play roles in the transition to carbon neutrality. It argues that ICEs are not detrimental to the environment, but fossil-based fuels are.

“Without the availability of renewable fuels, a 100% reduction target in 2035 is effectively a ban of the internal combustion engine.”

Renewable or synthetic fuels are made by mixing hydrogen derived from renewable sources to create a virtually carbon-neutral version of such fuels as gasoline, diesel and kerosene. These fuels are also known as e-fuels.

Boris Zhmud, head of research and development in the German lubricant marketer Bizol, agrees with the ACEA, saying it is the right way forward to technology openness.

“Technology neutrality should be viewed as a key to a successful and politically unbiased decarbonization strategy,” Zhmud said, adding that all the technologies – efficient ICEs, hybrids, BEVs, recharging points for them, e-fuel or hydrogen refueling stations – are expensive and would require investments of trillions of Euros.

ACEA applauds that the EU’s package of climate policies includes targets for deployment of charging and refueling infrastructure and that it addresses the requirements of all vehicle types, including vans and heavy-duty vehicles. But it questioned whether the 3.5 million charging points, referenced in the document, would be enough by 2030.

According to recent European Commission calculations “a further decrease of car CO2 emissions to -50% in 2030 would require some 6 million publicly available charging points,” the organization said.

The number of charging point installations in the 27 and the U.K. increased by roughly 36,000 a year to 250,000 in September 2020 from about 34,000 in 2014. The commission previously set a target to have 1 million public charging points by 2025.

In a video message posted on the ACEA website in June, Zipse emphasized the social importance of rolling out a dense infrastructure network that covers the entire EU.

“An extensive charging network allows manufacturers to keep battery sizes moderate, thus lowering the costs of vehicles,” Zipse said. “This is crucial for making e-mobility affordable.” He added that it will allow for the electrification of budget-friendly cars in the €15,000-30,000 price range.

In the video, the ACEA president cautioned “the typical EU household does not have the budget for big and expensive batteries. Without charging options, mobility for these customers will effectively be limited.”

The availability of recharging points is not the only problem in the early adoption of EVs. The means of paying for recharging also presents difficulties.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) recently found that availability of public charging stations varies significantly between member states and that payment systems are not harmonized, forcing drivers to use multiple subscriptions or payment methods to charge their cars if they travel in different EU countries.

“Last year, one in every 10 cars sold in the EU was electrically chargeable, but charging infrastructure is unevenly accessible across the EU,” Ladislav Balko, an ECA member, told the British media recently.

Zipse said that higher CO2 reduction targets for the industry must go hand-in-hand with equally ambitious infrastructure commitments from national governments.

ACEA expects the negotiations with the European Parliament and the 27 members to be “difficult to ensure that all the different pieces of this ‘Fit for 55’ puzzle fit together and create a coherent supportive framework.”

Eric-Mark Huitema, ACEA general director, said the policymakers have “a historic chance to get this right.” He stressed that the mobility must be affordable for all Europeans, while preserving the jobs of autoworkers.

The experts agree that the auto industry is fully committed to the ambitions of the EU Green Deal, but that targets must be mutually binding for all parties. They urged EU institutions to focus on innovation rather than mandating, or effectively banning, a specific technology.