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The combustion engine is dying whether the FDP wants it or not


The automotive industry has long since said goodbye to combustion engines for the European market. Only the FDP calls for a future for combustion engines. Why? An attempt at an explanation.

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A case for the technology junkyard: cars with internal combustion engines

Photo: Karl-Hendrik Tittel / iStockphoto / Getty Images

A quiz question to start with.

Who said that and when?

»We have to use the various energy sources where they are most efficient.

In a car, that's the electric drive.«

"In the foreseeable future, however, we will not have enough e-fuels to power the cars with combustion engines that are now registered."

If you have now thought of Economics Minister Habeck from the Greens, you are wrong.

It was the man who caused a great deal of unrest this week with another sentence:

»There is a clear task for the EU Commission: to enable the use of climate-friendly e-fuels in passenger cars, both for the existing fleet and for combustion engines that will be newly registered after 2035.«

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the first two sentences to the “Tagesspiegel” over a year ago.

He said the third sentence this week to the "Bild" newspaper.

Is this still the same man?

The Volker Wissing of 2023 is obviously different from that of 2022.

The Wissing of 2022 is right: so-called e-fuels, i.e. fuels that are produced from CO₂ and – otherwise they are not climate-neutral – renewable electricity, will remain expensive and very rare for the foreseeable future.

Running cars with e-fuels is an incredibly inefficient way of making mobility out of green electricity, which is scarce anyway.

Even the task of having enough e-fuels available by 2035 to fill up the then still huge fleet of combustion cars is a Herculean task.

Especially since e-fuels are needed more urgently elsewhere, especially in shipping and aviation – Volker Wissing from 2022 also knew that.

It is definitely not possible to electrify container ships and long-haul jets at the moment.

cars do.

Why is that?

The Volker Wissing of 2023 no longer wants to know all that.


It can't really be the fault of the automotive industry, because, as mentioned in this column two weeks ago, they decided to switch to e-mobility a long time ago.

From 2030 at the latest, new cars from the following brands will only be available in Europe as e-cars – for many the changeover date is even earlier: Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar, Lancia, Mercedes, Mini, Opel, Peugeot , Renault, Rolls Royce, Vauxhall, Volvo.

By 2035 there will be Hyundai, the world's largest car manufacturer Toyota and the second largest: VW.

In fact, e-cars are already the only drive segment that is still growing globally.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, car sales peaked in 2017.

Only sales of cars with electric drives will grow, by 50 percent in 2022 alone (a quarter of them hybrids, but the proportion is shrinking).

China's EV sales, most of them fully electric, tripled in 2021 and doubled in 2022.

The combustion engine is dying whether the FDP wants it or not

I have been asked several times in the past few days why a ban in the EU is necessary at all.

Volker Wissing from 2022 still knew the answer: »If we push the changeover, we will also achieve our climate goals«.

If you now say, well, Wissing is obviously a turncoat, you can't believe him anyway, maybe listen to the largest German automotive group: When the EU Parliament decided in the summer of 2022 to end the combustion engine, VW was expressly happy that "planning security for companies and consumers" is now being created.

Or maybe you believe the oldest car manufacturer ever, Mercedes: They also welcomed the EU decision, mainly for this reason: "The decision makes politics responsible for providing the necessary infrastructure."

Or you believe the head of Audi.

He just told SPIEGEL: "In the political discussion, we see the risk that the EU's clear decision to phase out combustion engines in 2035 will be called into question again.

That harbors the risk of a deadlock, and that would be fatal for the auto industry.« Key word planning security.

The money needs to change direction, and fast

This is the crucial point: the transformation of European mobility is a big task, which requires huge capital flows to change direction and lots of new infrastructure to be built, standards to be agreed upon and so on.

It helps if you can really be sure that everyone agrees and is doing the same thing.

And it is detrimental to plan parallel infrastructures - especially if these are obviously nonsensical to any layperson.

Because what Wissing and his party leader Christian Lindner want now simply cannot be implemented: Yes, you can build engines that only run on e-fuels and not on CO₂ fuel made from crude oil, like Wissing and Lindner will still do after 2035 want (without saying who should actually build these cars).

But then you can no longer fill these special e-fuels in classic combustion engines.

And if these extra varieties didn't exist - who should control who fills up and burns what?

Every diesel of today could also burn e-diesels that are already available.

So does the FDP want e-fuel types for old combustion engines, e-fuel types for new combustion engines (built after 2035) and a brand new charging infrastructure for e-cars in the future?

Is Porsche to blame?

So why are Wissing and Christian Lindner now throwing smoke candles?

There has been a lot of speculation that this could have something to do with Porsche, because today's VW boss Oliver Blume, who was only the boss of Porsche until last autumn, apparently had close contact with FDP boss Lindner during the coalition negotiations.

And Porsche is involved in a factory for e-fuels in Chile.

But, as Stefan Hajek from the "Wirtschaftswoche" calculated on Twitter this week, even if it increases its output by a factor of 4230 (!) as planned, it will only produce enough e-fuels for a ten-thousandth (!) of European cars -Create fleet.

Hajek comments on the behavior of the FDP: "Parts of the former business party have apparently forgotten how to calculate."

In fact, VW boss Oliver Blume doesn't believe in e-fuels for new cars after 2035 at all. At least that's what three SPIEGEL colleagues reported in January.

Porsche needs e-fuels so that old 911s still have a credible perspective after 2035.

That's all.

Incidentally, the electric Taycan from Porsche is already selling better than the 911.

So why does the Volker Wissing of 2023 suddenly want something that neither makes sense nor is in the interest of the automotive industry?

There are two candidates for the answer.

The oil industry keeps lying

The first is the oil industry: It is currently trying desperately and sometimes with very unfair methods to badmouth e-cars.

It's clear why: under no circumstances does it want to lose the incredibly lucrative, albeit suicidal, sales market for mobility for the future of mankind.

Lobbying institutions in the oil industry such as the "Heartland Institute" in the USA, financed by Koch Industries, or the Murdoch media are therefore currently agitating against e-mobility at great expense and disinformation.

If you have recently heard that e-cars do not really emit less CO₂ than combustion engines in their life cycle: That is simply a lie, even based on today's electricity mix.

And the more electricity is generated from renewable sources, the better the balance sheet will be.

There is a lot of misinformation floating around on this topic.

However, it is true that fewer cars would generally be better.

And 2.5-ton SUVs are nonsensical and not very effective, even with electric motors.

It's just desperation

Perhaps Wissing and Lindner are acting on behalf of the oil industry, with the calculus: In the end, the new combustion engines will be fueled with fuel from oil because the other one simply doesn't exist.


Christian Stocker

We are the experiment

Publisher: Karl Blessing

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Another explanation seems more plausible to me.

There are surveys according to which a narrow majority of Germans are suspicious of the end of the combustion engine.

My assumption is therefore: The FDP, which is currently at six percent in polls, is trying to populistically score points with those nostalgic about combustion engines with a bit of denial of reality when it comes to combustion engines.

Out of sheer fear of being kicked out of parliament in the next federal election, as was the case recently in Berlin and Lower Saxony.

In other state elections, the party under Christian Lindner recorded huge losses.

Only one percent of the electorate considers the FDP to be best suited to solving Germany's problems.

So the party that likes to accuse others of "ideology" is demonstratively ideological: "Prohibitions are always bad."

In truth, however, Lindner's FDP is simply acting in an irrationally populist way, looking for votes.

That's why the small party is no longer just blocking the federal government's absolutely necessary climate reforms - but also the entire EU.

That won't help it, but it will damage the European economy, the EU and, in the worst case, the climate.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2023-03-05

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