Fleets operating in Europe will be forced to electrify vehicles by 2035 under far-reaching plans announced  on July 14, 2021 by the European Commission.

Called the European Green Deal and dubbed ‘Fit for 55’, the plan embraces the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies making them fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

While these plans have to be ratified, dramatic action is required to reduce the EU’s carbon emissions. In particular, this will affect passenger cars which will be required to be zero emission by 2035. The EU wants average emissions of new cars to come down by 55% from 2030 and 100% from 2035 compared to 2021 levels.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The fossil fuel economy has reached its limits. We want to leave the next generation a healthy planet as well as good jobs and growth that does not hurt our nature. The European Green Deal is our growth strategy that is moving towards a decarbonised economy.”

While the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) welcomed the report, it said it wanted to study the detail more fully, saying that carmakers were already committed to reducing emissions to zero. However, it said that banning a single technology was not a rational way forward while Europe was still adjusting to the infrastructure required to deliver emission-free motoring.

Oliver Zipse, ACEA President and CEO of BMW, commented: “The current proposal for an even bigger cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 requires a massive further increase in market demand for electric vehicles in a short timeframe. Without significantly increased efforts by all stakeholders – including member states and all involved sectors – the proposed target is simply not viable.”

Zipse added that all options should be on the table, from highly efficient combustion engines to hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, because all have a role to play in the route to carbon neutrality, adding that without the the availability of renewable fuels, a 100% reduction target in 2035 was effectively a ban of the internal combustion engine.

“Within the context of the proposed technology restrictions from 2035 onwards, we urge all EU institutions to focus on innovation rather than mandating, or effectively banning, a specific technology,” Zipse underlined.

The environmental group, Transport & Environment (T&E), said that the transition from sales of cars with polluting engines to fully electric vehicles was “an essential step” for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, with Isabell Büschel, director of T&E in Spain calling it "a turning point for the automotive industry".