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CLEPA Newsletter Editorial November 2018: Five minutes to twelve? Bridging electric versus combustion


22 Nov 2018


Climate & Environment
The negotiations between the European co-legislators on curbing CO2 emissions from cars, vans and trucks are in their final stages. Worryingly, they remain dominated by the artificial divide between ‘pro-electric/pro-climate’ and ‘pro-combustion/pro-status quo’.
That’s too simple a vision to sustain, and it clouds our view on the implications of the new law.
First fact of the matter: we need both technologies at the highest technical standards to help the climate, ensure smart and safe and sustainable mobility and keep automotive employment and innovation in the EU.
Second: maintaining the status quo has no place in any scenario. Ambitious regulation is an important driver for change. However, that does not preclude a measured target setting.
Currently, EU lawmakers are calling for at least a 35% reduction in new vehicle emissions by 2030, and some member states are discussing deadlines – 2040 perhaps – by when the last car with a combustion engine is to be sold in the EU. The impact of this all, is the preferential treatment of one single solution: electric mobility.
The automotive components industry urges to think bolder.
Mobility technology providers by default, automotive suppliers are at the forefront of the latest mobility trends. It is this vantage point that makes them keenly aware that all technology options are needed to reduce emissions and congestion and make mobility efficient and safe.
Unpopular as it may sound, electric vehicle technology is still immature when it comes to technological development, mass-scale production and wide-scale deployment. Infrastructure isn’t ready. Over their lifespan, battery-electric vehicles help the climate only if powered largely by renewable energy, which is still some decades away. Batteries increase dependency from raw materials from some of the least stable regions in the world.
Fast-paced evolution is better than revolution to manage this transition – and we predict that customer demand will forge exactly that in the years to come.
Electric mobility is a great solution: European suppliers deliver electric parts and components all over the world. But electric mobility is one of many solutions, and will often achieve best only in combination with other technologies. Synthetic fuel offers a route to carbon neutral combustion too. The automotive supply industry wants to deliver zero-emission mobility for tomorrow as well as make an impact here and now, both in new and already running vehicles.
European parts and component manufacturers with their millions of skilled employees are uniquely placed to set global standards in all required technologies. It’s a successful strategy, making them leading innovators and global players. Outstanding technology, diversity and industrial strength will again determine Europe’s place between the shifting powers of the USA, China, India and other emerging giants.
We need ambitious yet technology-neutral target-setting to deliver on CO2 emissions. That is not compatible with reduction targets way beyond the Commission’s 30% proposal – a number based on maximising environmental and societal impact. And it certainly defies staging electric-versus-combustion. We have to be bolder than that if we want to reduce CO2 emissions effectively and maintain industrial strength and employment in the European mobility industry.
Sigrid de Vries, CLEPA Secretary General