Car-part makers nervously watch EU efforts to ban fossil-fuel cars – POLITICO Europe

June 28, 2022 by No Comments

Stefano Caprio frets the EU’s plan to end the sale of new fossil-fuel cars from 2035 is going to cause big problems for his Turin-based engineers trying to clean up the combustion engine.

The chief operating officer of Punch Hydrocells, a unit of Belgian automotive supplier Punch, will be watching closely on Tuesday as EU environment ministers decide whether to back the European Commission’s timeline for slashing car and van CO2 emissions to zero by 2035 under the Fit for 55 package of green laws.

If that happens, Punch’s plans to develop engines that run on hydrogen — a clean fuel that emits only water — will be in trouble.

“For the workers in the plant, this will be a major hit for them,” Caprio said, speaking by videoconference from Punch Hydrocells’ headquarters in northern Italy, adding that the emissions reduction from running internal combustion engines with hydrogen was “really, really strong.”

The problem is that Punch’s prototype hydrogen engines use lubricants and so emit less than 1 gram of CO2 per kilometer — which is more than the EU’s 100 percent cut would allow. It would also rule out engine retrofits allowing hydrogen to be blended with conventional fuels, reducing emissions by around 90 percent, Caprio said.

Punch employs 2,000, mostly in Europe, producing everything from engine parts to transmissions for clients such as Ford and Volvo-owner Geely. Many of those jobs are uncertain if ministers back the 2035 mandate. The European Parliament already voted to support the idea.

“In case this kind of mandate comes into force … this will be a major change for the market, and a very strong stop in sales already in 2031 or maybe 2032,” said Caprio, adding that if the rules change his company can diversify into software, but those jobs will be different than today’s.

Big change

Most large carmakers support a 2035 phaseout as they’re making huge investments in electric cars, but the transition threatens large parts of the ecosystem of parts suppliers as EVs need fewer components than conventional cars.

“The EU is the only region to consider a tech ban, compromising our competitiveness and putting half a million jobs at risk,” said Sigrid de Vries, who runs Europe’s car parts lobby CLEPA.

Instead, de Vries said ministers should “hedge our bets” by offering the industry more flexibility to work on using hydrogen, along with alternative fuels such as biofuels, biogas and synthetic fuels, in current engines.

In the case of Punch, that means the EU should allow emissions in limited circumstances from hydrogen-equipped engines.

Agreeing to that leeway would have two critical benefits, de Vries argued, since it would give the industry an incentive to work on technologies that could reduce emissions from the millions of vehicles that will still be on the road after the 2035 ban on the sale of new polluting cars goes into effect.

It would also help save jobs. In a study published in December, CLEPA argued that even after factoring in the jobs created in the battery cell production industry, going all-electric would cost a net 275,000 jobs across Europe.


The final EU 2035 text will have to be worked out in talks between the Parliament and the Council, but the trajectory will be clear if ministers join both the Commission and MEPs in backing the 100 percent reduction target.

However, not all member countries are on board.

“The 100 percent target for 2035 … I am not as confident that it will …….



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