La fin du véhicule thermique, acte de naissance du transport décarboné

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The European decision to stop the production of new thermal vehicles in 2035 is an essential step, now taken, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 on the old continent.

However, this ban, which will take effect 15 years before the fateful horizon of 2050, has not been the subject of a global consensus, to say the least. Member States initially seemed to be mostly in agreement on stopping the production of thermal vehicles in 2035, as suggested by the validation of the law dedicated to this ambition on February 14. From there, the final validation of the law by the Council of the European Union should have been a simple formality… but it was not. In fact, on March 10, Germany, to the surprise of many, joined the only three countries which showed reluctance regarding the validation of this law, namely Italy, Poland and Bulgaria. A month of standoff later, the text validating the end of the production of thermal vehicles by 2035 is finally validated by all member countries. Germany agreed to validate the agreement, having obtained what it wanted, namely a specific arrangement authorizing, after 2035, the use of synthetic fuels for thermal vehicles.

If the legislative outlines of this development are not yet final, the stakes are high, since it authorizes the continuation of the production of thermal vehicles after 2030, on the condition that they operate with synthetic fuels. There ecological relevance of these fuels is currently being debated: whether from green hydrogen or low-carbon electricity in order to obtain methanol, the production of synthetic fuels turns out to be extremely expensiveand their use will therefore be very limited.

In any case, Europe is therefore well and truly committed to a ban on thermal vehicles by 2035. The choice of this date owes nothing to chance: the lifespan of thermal vehicles is estimated at around fifteen years. ‘years, we fall back on the disappearance of these vehicles by 2050, which corresponds to the date on which the EU aims for carbon neutrality.

In France, the national low carbon strategy – SNBC – defines the strategic orientations concerning each industrial sector in order to achieve a decarbonized society in 2050. The SNBC defines the roadmap to follow, in stages, to achieve this result. Regarding transport, the objective for 2030 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% compared to 2015. This ambition covers all means of transport, with the exception of air transport.

How to achieve this? There SNBC lists four action levers. First, improving the energy performance of light and heavy vehicles, with a consumption target of 4 liters per 100 km for thermal vehicles used by individuals.

The second lever concerns the electrification of vehicles and the development of inherent infrastructure to the operation of this fleet of carbon-free vehicles. In terms of figures, the government hopes to reach 35% of sales of new electric or hydrogen passenger vehicles in 2030, and 100% in 2040.

Third point, controlling transport needs: optimizing the use of vehicles, carpooling, teleworking… in short, we must limit the demand for transport as much as possible.

Finally, the SNBC aims to transfer uses to economical modes of transport, with regard to both people and goods: the two modes of transport to be favored are therefore public transport and the bicycle for people, and the train for freight transport.

Although the 2035 horizon may still seem far away, many automobile manufacturers have already committed to objectives consistent with those of the EU. Let us cite Audi, which announces that it will complete its transition to 100% electric by 2033, or Renault, which displays the ambition of offering a fleet composed of 90% electric vehicles by 2030.

By Pierre Thouverez

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