Cars with combustion engines will continue to exist

Mr. Hartung, you are the head of the largest automobile supplier in the world. What do you think of the Council of Ministers’ decision to ban combustion engines in the EU in 2035?

Sven Astheimer

Editor in charge of corporate reporting.

We can support the goal, the CO2-Reduce emissions from new vehicles by 55% by 2030 and by 100% by 2035. But two aspects are important for the decision: the binding technology decision for the year 2035 restricts the scope of innovations too much. Make assumptions over a 13-year period without knowing the range of possible innovations. We are therefore fundamentally in favor of an approach that is open to all technologies and welcome an opening clause, such as the one EU environment ministers may have found for electronic fuels. In any case, there will still be cars with internal combustion engines around the world, which can also make a contribution to protecting the climate. 2035 is not far off for the auto industry. Europe is expected to remain innovative during this period.

And the second aspect?

In 2035, most cars will still be powered by combustion engines. How does this fleet, at least in part, CO2-neutral without having to completely replace them? We have 1.4 billion vehicles on the road around the world, but we currently only build around 80 million a year. Based on this, it will take 25 years before we have all vehicles replaced. That’s why I think the proposed opt-out clause is CO2– good for neutral fuels, since there are already vehicles that are compatible with electronic fuels. Many assumptions we made 2 or 3 years ago are no longer valid today. And so it will also be in 13 years.

What assumptions do you mean?

Take the comparison between gas and hydrogen. We have always said that green hydrogen is too expensive and not sufficiently available. This will change given the accelerated shift in our energy mix in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

What problems can there be with electric cars?

I have no doubt that battery electric drives are the most efficient solution for cars in the near future. But there will be limitations. The growing number of necessary charging stations overloads the existing network. Incidentally, the same goes for heat pumps: we cannot install this technology in every home. To do this, we would have to completely replace the electricity grid in the streets. 13 years is nothing for a complete infrastructure renovation.

Are you disappointed by the federal government that these connections are not recognized?

So far, the federal government is doing a great job in extremely difficult times. The government has addressed the issue of energy security quickly and consistently, without ideological barriers. This surprised me positively. I also found the way government communicated with business and science and asked what to do to be extremely professional and encouraging. I was also impressed with the way a federal minister has provided comprehensive information nearly 24 hours a day in the media. I don’t take this effort for granted. You won’t hear any criticism from me about the federal government.

What conclusions do you draw from the energy situation? Have you reduced your natural gas consumption?

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