Bosch, Europe's largest car parts supplier, has hit out at the EU for being "fixated" on electric vehicles, while overlooking other low-emission transport technologies, such as hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
"Climate action is not about the end of the internal-combustion engine," said Volkmar Denner, chief executive of the privately owned German manufacturer.
“It’s about the end of fossil fuels. And while electromobility and green charging power make road transport carbon neutral, so do renewable fuels.”
Mr Denner took particular exception to initial proposals for so-called “Euro 7” legislation being considered by the EU, which are set to impose far stricter limits on carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from petrol and diesel cars, vans, trucks and buses.
A central pillar of the bloc’s Green New Deal policy, the regulations had been branded by auto lobbyists as a “de facto ban on the internal combustion engine”, after policymakers mooted a system in which emissions would be measured over a car’s lifetime, including in challenging weather conditions, rather than through a single benchmark test.
The final details of the law are still being drawn up, and the standards are unlikely to be introduced until at least 2025.
Bosch, which has invested €5 billion into electric vehicle technology and is hedging its bets by continuing to build up its hydrogen capabilities, argued that diesel and petrol engines had advanced to the point where they “no longer have an appreciable impact on air quality”.
Board member Stefan Hartung told reporters that the company "will continue to invest in combustion engine technology for at least another 20-30 years".
Mr Denner accused the EU of being focused on the “short-term objective” of eradicating combustion engines, while “shying away from talking about the consequences this will have on employment”.
He went on to say: “When Kennedy announced the ambitious goal of putting a man on the moon, he left it up to engineers to decide how to achieve it.
"The European Commission is running the risk of doing the reverse. With their policy, which in effect amounts to a technology monopoly, the moon landing would not have succeeded. Potential paths to climate action are currently being cut off."
His comments came as the body representing the German car industry, the VDA, released a study that confirmed sales of electric vehicles in Europe were gaining pace thanks to generous subsidies.
The data, part of a survey commissioned ahead of the VDA’s upcoming Munich Mobility Show in September, showed that the number of electric vehicles registered in Europe last year was 143 per cent higher than in 2019, compared with 15 per cent growth in China.
Bosch, which is not required to publish its accounts, on Thursday revealed that after a better than expected 2020, it had continued to see a recovery in the first three months of this year.
Sales were up 8.5 per cent on the same period in 2019, the last pre-pandemic measure. In China, they were up by almost 27 per cent.
But the Gerlingen-based company warned that bottlenecks in the supply of critical semiconductors would continue to plague the auto industry in 2021, and suppress the sector’s recovery.
“Unfortunately, this situation cannot be expected to improve any time soon,” it said, adding that the shortages would probably last “for many months to come”.
Earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler reduced working hours for more than 18,000 of its workers in Germany due to a lack of chip supply. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021