Perseverance wins. In the dispute over the 2035 combustion ban, the European Commission has moved far towards Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing – further than the FDP itself probably hoped a few weeks ago. That much is now certain. At the beginning of March, Wissing put his foot in the door at the last second and thus prevented the final vote for the combustion ban. Now the door is open again. The European Commission will present proposals to pave the way for new cars fuelled with climate-neutral e-fuels after 2035.

For this purpose, a separate category for such vehicles is to be created. Subsequently, these are to be integrated into the EU rules for CO₂ emissions from cars. The EU Commission has promised a concrete roadmap. In autumn 2024, the end for the combustion engine should stand.

But: This is not a sure-fire success. The road to the end of the combustion engine could be bumpy. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament can veto the timetable agreed by the Commission and the Federal Ministry of Transport late on Friday evening. Here, Wissing – if he is serious – will still have to do some convincing work. The European Court of Justice will probably also have to examine whether the apparently envisaged procedure (both sides kept extremely low on the details of the agreement on Saturday) is at all legal. Some MEPs have already held out the prospect of a lawsuit on Saturday.

A complete ban would be a mistake

However, if all goes well, the FDP will have achieved a victory for technology-open climate protection. There will probably be no way around electrifying the majority of the European car fleet if the EU wants to achieve its climate targets. But to ban the combustion engine completely is a mistake. Why does the EU want to discourage resourceful minds by law from looking for other ways to climate neutrality?

Certainly, firstly, e-fuels are scarce, secondly, they are urgently needed to power climate-neutral ships and aircraft, and thirdly, they are extremely expensive. But as unlikely as it seems today. Perhaps in 2035 there will be combustion engines powered by e-fuels that not only Porsche drivers can afford.

Then Wissing's persistence might even be worth the enormous political damage he has done with his unprecedented last-minute blockade in Brussels.