The European Union’s (EU) ambitious 2050 net zero goals are facing significant challenges due to setbacks in the EV rollout, a key component in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The EU has proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol cars by 2035, a critical step toward cutting road transport emissions, which constitute nearly a quarter of the bloc’s total greenhouse gas output.

Despite setting a target to have 30 million zero-emission vehicles on European roads by 2030, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has expressed doubts about the economic and industrial feasibility of this transition.

The high costs of EV production in Europe might lead to dependence on cheaper imports, especially from China, which manufactures 76% of the world’s EV batteries, overshadowing the EU’s production of less than 10%.

Annemie Turtelboom, an ECA member, voiced the bloc’s dilemma: “The EU faces a conundrum: how to meet goals without harming industrial policy and hurting consumers.” She pointed out that 2026 will be a pivotal year for reassessing policies.

Competitive Pressures and Subsidy-Driven Adoption

Competition is forcing top EV manufacturers like Tesla to reduce prices to compete with more affordable Chinese models. European automakers, such as Stellantis and Renault, are racing to produce cost-effective EVs to stay in the market.

Yet, the adoption of EVs in the EU has largely relied on subsidies, and the region lacks sufficient charging infrastructure. Currently, 70% of charging stations are in just three countries: Germany, France, and the Netherlands. The ECA warns that without a significant price reduction in EVs, reliance on subsidies is untenable. Turtelboom noted, “Batteries alone already cost 15,000 euros when produced in Europe.”

The Challenge of Alternative Fuels

Biofuels, e-fuels, and hydrogen have not reached commercial viability, further complicating the EU’s energy transition strategy. Additionally, real reductions in CO2 emissions from cars have been elusive, with diesel car emissions unchanged since 2010 and only a slight decrease in emissions from petrol cars.

A recent ECA report criticized the use of laboratory tests for emission standards, which fail to accurately reflect real-world emissions. ECA member Nikolaos Milionis commented, “Despite lofty ambitions and strict requirements, most conventional cars still emit as much CO2 as 12 years ago,” citing an increase in the average car weight as a contributing factor.

As the 2035 deadline for eliminating petrol car sales draws nearer, the EU is facing significant economic, industrial, and technological obstacles in its path to a sustainable, zero-emission future. The realization of the EU’s climate goals hinges on overcoming the current EV rollout setbacks, emphasizing the critical nature of resolving these issues for a greener, more sustainable future.

Image Source: