Italy and France line up to push back EU’s combustion engine plan

Lamborghini and Renault call for the 2035 ban to be modified, but for very different reasons

The EU’s proposed ban on the sale of new cars with combustion engines is coming under fire from two different sources, and for two very different reasons.

The EU’s plan would see car manufacturers reduce CO2 emissions from their cars by 55 per cent by 2030, and by 100 per cent come 2035, effectively phasing out the sale of anything but battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) or hydrogen vehicles (HEVs) by that date.

All of the European car makers had, up till now, rowed in behind this plan, with most announcing that they will phase out the introduction of new combustion-engined models between now and 2026-2027, and plan to have at least a majority of their European sales made up of electric cars by 2030.

However, some are now breaking ranks with the plan, with the first to do so being the Italian government, which wants a combustion engined dispensation for its two famed supercar makers, Ferrari and Lamborghini.


Roberto Cingolani, Italy's minister for ecological transition, has confirmed that the government in Rome is seeking a dispensation to allow both Ferrari and Lamborghini to go on making their high-performance engines, especially their flagship V12 units.

Speaking to US publication The Drive, Maurizio Reggiani – a former senior Lamborghini engineer, and a man close to the current senior management of the company – said: "I believe that what we sell is emotion, and part of that emotion comes from the sound of the engine. For us, it's fundamental to continue to use a V12 engine. That is the best in terms of sound and progressivity, and it's the sound Lamborghini customers want to hear."

Reggiani does at least admit that Lamborghini must seek to reduce its carbon output – the company already makes mild-hybrid engines, and plug-in hybrids are on the way. Ferrari, too, is going electric. It already has the 299 GTB plug-in hybrid in production, and is working on its first all-electric model, which should be on sale by 2025.

However, entirely unsurprisingly, Ferrari too wants to hold on to its emblematic V12s, and is expected to produce future 12-cylinder engines that are smaller in cubic capacity and rely in turbocharging to produce high power outputs.

Its current V12, as used in the 812 Superfast coupe, has a 6.5-litre capacity. Ferrari has an impressive track record with downsizing and turbocharging though; it chopped the capacity of its V8 engine in the 458 sports car to 3.9 litres, added turbos, and ended up with an engine that was more efficient but also much more powerful, in the 720hp F8 Tributo. Still, for all the extra efficiency, the F8 Tributo is a car that emits 296g/km of CO2.

Small-volume brands

Then again, Ferraris and Lamborghinis are produced in vanishingly small numbers – Ferrari sold just over 9,000 cars last year, while Lamborghini shifted 7,400. Yes, all of those cars are ultra-high performance and ultra-high emission models but they are far fewer in number than the hundreds of thousands of VW Golfs, Ford Focuses and Toyota Corollas built every year, and they are generally driven far less – few Ferrari owners commute in their Italian classics.

It is this that has persuaded other car makers to back the proposed dispensation. Oliver Zipse is chief executive of BMW, but he's also president of the ACEA, the European car makers' association, and he is in favour of small-volume brands being given a break on the 2035 ban.

“For very small manufacturers, who in the bigger picture of overall emissions play almost no role, there are good arguments for considering these exemptions,” said Zipse at the recent IAA motor show in Munich.

However, not everyone agrees. Indeed, there is dissent even within the ranks of the mighty Volkswagen Group. Lamborghini is, of course, owned by VW, but at the same motor show in Munich where Oliver Zipse was backing Lamborghini, Porsche's chief executive, Oliver Blume, was saying quite the opposite.

"Electric in the next decade will be unbeatable," he told Bloomberg Television. "Decarbonisation is a global question and everybody has to contribute." Porsche, we would remind you, is also part of the VW Group, and actually shares some components with Lamborghini…

At the other end of the scale from supercars, Renault

– assisted by the French government – is also arguing that the 2035 ban on combustion engines should be at least softened. While Italy and its supercar super-duo is arguing that hyper-expensive hypercars don't make enough of a dent in the environment to be worth bothering about, Renault is suggesting that electric cars will be too expensive for the foreseeable future, and that we need to keep a certain number of more affordable internal combustion engined models on sale so as to ensure mobility at all levels of society.

Basically, Renault – which has found huge success in the past year with its all-electric Zoe model, and is about to launch an electric-only replacement for the current Megane – has one eye on the business case for its cheap-o Dacia brand.

Speaking to Auto Express magazine, Renault Group's executive vice-president for engineering, Gilles Leborgne, said: "We will fight in order to keep hybrid alive after 2034, 2035, because [in the current EU proposal] we have a full ban of internal combustion engines. It's not said like that, but it's zero-emission by 2034, so translated it means no ICE. We do think it's not the right approach so we will fight to propose a smoother way of doing things, to have a proportion of hybrid until I would say 2040.

“We can bring all of the technologies from Renault to Dacia no problem. We are doing that already; look at the Sandero. But of course, because of the cost of the car we will wait until it’s absolutely necessary to do it. For Dacia it will be a nice and gentle move. We will keep petrol and LPG, then we’ll move to mild-hybrid, and hybrid, then to full electric.”

Fully electric model

Dacia is about to launch its own first fully electric model, the Spring, which has a relatively short range (about 200km on a good day) but which could potentially cost as little as €10,000 with current Irish Government incentives.

Others are rowing in behind these plans to soften the EU's electric-only stance, including the Czech prime minister, Andrej Bab, who has been quoted as saying: "We will not agree with the ban on selling fossil fuel-powered cars. It's not possible. We can't dictate here what green fanatics devised in the European Parliament. " Meanwhile, Toyota boss Akio Toyoda has warned that Japan's plans to create a national zero-carbon economy could prove disastrous for employment in the country's car industry.

However, those outside the car industry disagree with the car makers' arguments. Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility at influential environmental think tank Transport & Environment told The Irish Times: "Battery electric cars and vans could reach 100 per cent of new sales by 2035, even in southern and eastern Europe, if lawmakers increase vehicle CO2 targets and ramp up other policies to stimulate the market such as a faster roll-out of charging points. If left to the market without strong additional policies, battery electric cars will reach only an 85 per cent market share, and e-vans just 83 per cent, in the EU by 2035 – missing Europe's goal to decarbonise by 2050. EVs will be a reality for all new buyers within six years.