Photo: Daniel Hofer / DER SPIEGEL
It was a clear announcement from the Minister of Transport about the future of the internal combustion engine.
"In the foreseeable future we will not have enough e-fuels to operate the cars with combustion engines that are now registered," said Volker Wissing (FDP) to the "Tagesspiegel" on the role of synthetic fuels generated with electricity.
Theoretically, these enable cars with petrol or diesel engines to be operated in a climate-neutral manner and are therefore something like the last hope for everyone who wants to stick with combustion engines in the future. Because without e-fuels, the end of these engines is sealed in the long term. However, from the point of view of most experts, synthetic fuels are inefficient, expensive and hardly available for years to come - and should be used where there are no alternatives, for example in airplanes and ships.
Consequently, the transport minister warned consumers to continue to rely on combustion engines.
"The use of fossil fuels will become more expensive in the future," said Wissing.
"That's why I can only advise you to switch to CO₂-neutral drives." At the same time, it should be ensured that charging with regenerative electricity remains affordable.
»If you look at the EU regulation, you can see that the decision in favor of e-mobility was made a long time ago.«
After a wave of approval from the Greens, SPD, experts and environmental organizations as well as harsh criticism from the automobile association VDA and politicians from Union and AfD during the course of the day, Wissing spoke again in the evening in the Bundestag - this time the statements were anything but clear.
Instead of clarity, there is now more confusion about the exact plans.
"Every contribution to CO2 reduction is important," said Wissing.
Mobility must continue to develop in a way that is “technology-neutral” in the future.
That's why you can't convert everything to one drive.
"If we want to reduce CO₂ quickly, we have to use electromobility more," said Wissing.
However, electricity-based fuels could also be an important building block in the future – not only for air traffic and shipping, but also in existing car fleets.
Combustion engine fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Wissing's rhetorical roller coaster ride at the end of the day.
The effect of his words in the interview had apparently surprised the minister himself.
The transport policy spokesman for the Union faction, Thomas Bareiß (CDU), accused Wissing of a “change of course” and “breach of word”.
The FDP's election program said: "Synthetic fuels are an alternative for all types of transport that can be used in internal combustion engines."
Autoverband: »Of course we need e-fuels«
Wissing must keep what he and his party had promised during the election campaign, demanded Hildegard Müller, President of the Association of the Automotive Industry.
“Of course we also need e-fuels for road traffic.
Without e-fuels, the vehicles that are already in operation cannot make any contribution to climate protection," Müller told the Funke Group newspapers.
However, the focus is still on electromobility, she said.
The ADAC made a similar statement, pointing out that there would still be millions of old combustion cars on the roads in 2030.
Environmental and climate protection associations were initially almost enthusiastic and praised the at least suspected break between the new transport minister and the policies of his predecessor Andreas Scheuer (CSU). "In terms of energy efficiency, price and availability, synthetic fuels are not an option for cars now and will not be in the future," said Jens Hilgenberg, head of transport policy at the environmental association BUND.
After Wissing's speech in the Bundestag, climate protectionists quickly became disillusioned again.
“Praised this morning, Wissing is already rowing back when it comes to e-fuels for cars when he appears in the Bundestag.
It's unfortunate," tweeted Daniel Rieger, head of transport policy at Nabu.
'Would have been a strong start to his tenure.
Are more years of half-hearted electromobility policy looming now?” Many observers are likely to ask themselves that question.
For Greenpeace traffic expert Tobias Austrup, the current debate falls short anyway.
Wissing must launch an “immediate program in traffic that makes large, heavy gas guzzlers more expensive with a new registration tax, abolishes the company car privilege and sets an end to combustion engines as early as 2025”.
Apparently, Wissing had followed the reactions of the day closely.
In any case, in his Bundestag speech he called for “more understanding for the needs and perspectives of others”.
He would like "a little less willingness to get outraged immediately and constantly".