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Combustion áde: Car manufacturers get serious

The first big car companies have given concrete dates for the phase-out of the internal combustion engine. So things are getting serious for diesel and petrol engines. But the dealers are keeping a few loopholes open and are also demanding more help from politicians. But even if there are no more new combustion engines, the existing ones will not disappear so easily.

Audi and VW have named a concrete end to internal combustion cars. Audi announced that the last new model will be introduced in 2025. From 2033 onwards, no more combustion engines will be offered. VW set the phase-out period from 2033 to 2035. Experts see the announcement as a signal for other carmakers. Other brands could soon follow suit.

But the carmakers are keeping a few back doors open. For example, they want to continue researching e-fuels. These are synthetically produced fuels that are fuelled like diesel and petrol, but can be produced sustainably. They would be needed especially for sports cars like the Porsche 911 if conventional fuels were no longer available. BMW also believes it is important to approach the new mobility as openly as possible and not to commit to one path. Moreover, the carmakers have only announced the end of combustion engines for Europe for the time being. The increasingly strict environmental zones here leave them no other choice. While it will take a little longer in the USA and China, a turnaround in Africa and South America is still not in sight.

Even if the end of the internal combustion engine is becoming much more concrete with the announcements by Audi and VW, the actual end is still a long way off. When new combustion cars roll off the production line by the middle of the next decade, they will still be on our roads up to 10 years later, some even longer. So until 2045 or 2050, our street scene will change only slowly.

This slow transition may not be a bad thing for the charging structure. The infrastructure would not be able to handle a rapid changeover. But for the climate, it could take too long. This is another reason why carmakers are demanding that politicians and the energy sector help out and take care of the charging structure and the increased electricity that e-cars will need, regardless of whether they are powered by batteries, hydrogen or e-fuels. Because all these types of drive need electricity, which must come from renewable energies so that mobility really becomes green. But since there is no surplus of green electricity at the moment, in purely mathematical terms every new e-car currently has to be powered by fossil fuels.

It is therefore imperative that politicians support the carmakers so that the end of the combustion engine can be a success. Otherwise, either the infrastructure will not be ready, or the emissions will only be shifted from the road to the energy suppliers.