If Christian Lindner and his FDP have their way, the end of the combustion engine is far from sealed. That's why he's planning a law that will revolutionize vehicle tax.
Berlin – The FDP wants to give so-called e-fuels a real chance. They already showed this in March 2023, when Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) only agreed to the EU-wide ban on internal combustion engines from 2035 when an exemption for e-fuels was permitted. The argument: Instead of relying solely on a climate-friendly solution - i.e. e-cars - car manufacturers should be given the opportunity to develop and manufacture other options as well. In order for this to happen, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) wants to present a draft law this autumn, according to the FAZ.
Reform of vehicle tax: Lindner plans revolution for combustion engines - levies for e-fuels to be abolished
The core of the law is to be the abolition of the vehicle tax for cars with e-fuel drive – as is already the case for electric cars. In addition, company cars that use e-fuels are to be tax-advantaged, the FAZ continues.
If it is possible under European law, VAT on e-fuels is also to be waived: "The zero tax rate on the supply of e-fuels is intended to increase the incentive for their use, support the transition to sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility and strengthen the market for alternative energy sources while maintaining openness to technology," the newspaper quotes the Ministry of Finance as saying.
Reform of the motor vehicle tax: E-fuels complex and expensive
In fact, at least in theory, e-fuels have the potential to decarbonize the transport sector. Many different fuels fall under the umbrella of e-fuels. A distinction is made between first-generation biofuels and advanced or synthetic fuels. Advanced biofuels are produced from agricultural waste. At their core, synthetic fuels are obtained from a chemical reaction of hydrogen, which must first be produced by electrolysis with green electricity, and CO₂, which comes from biogas.
Advanced and synthetic biofuels can only be climate-neutral or climate-friendly if no additional CO₂ is released into the atmosphere along the entire production pathway. This is time-consuming and expensive, which is why e-fuels are criticized.
Hydrogen-powered cars are rare. But the drive is considered climate-neutral.
© Rupert Oberhäuser/Imago
Climate researchers: E-fuels are urgently needed for other sectors
Prominent critics of e-fuels are, for example, researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who, under the direction of Dr. Falko Ueckerdt, wrote a position paper on the future of e-fuels in March 2023. In it, the researchers make it clear that e-fuels are indispensable for climate protection – but are needed above all in aviation, shipping and the chemical industry. "In the future, these requirements will have to be met not only by biomass and recycled plastics, but also by e-fuels such as synthetic e-naphtha or e-methanol. These quantities are as large as the fuel demand of all passenger cars," the authors say.
In order to meet the demand in these sectors, the market ramp-up for e-fuels must be driven forward more quickly, as at the current rate, just 2035 percent of Germany's demand in shipping and air traffic as well as in the chemical industry could be met by 10. Quite simply, there are not yet enough e-fuels to even seriously consider their use in the private transport sector, the conclusion goes.
Category list image: © Rupert Oberhäuser/Imago