Pascal Canfin: “The electric car is simply the most obvious technology”

Posted Oct 28, 2022, 7:00 AM

This time, it is well and truly voted. After months of negotiations, the European Union approved on Thursday evening the ban on the sale of new cars with exhaust emissions – which effectively excludes diesel vehicles and gasoline from the European market. A strong choice in favor of the environment, which has however accumulated criticism from industrialists and political leaders in recent weeks. Pascal Canfin, LREM President of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, answers point by point.

European Europe validated last night the ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2035. Is this realistic?

The whole world is going electric, and California has made the exact same decision. I also remind you that this is a “zero CO2 emissions at the exhaust pipe” standard, and not a technological standard. Electric is simply the most obvious technology as we speak.

Carlos Tavares accuses Brussels of rolling out the “red carpet” for Chinese electric cars and of “doing everything upside down”…

Those who accuse us today of playing into China’s hands are the same people who told us five years ago that the electric car was not possible. As for the criticisms of Carlos Tavares, who has indeed been the most present in recent days, I can show you the email from Stellantis, received on the morning of June 8, the day of the vote in the European Parliament, supporting 100% zero-emission in 2035. We cannot support a measure and say 3 to 4 months later that it is an absolutely scandalous decision. It takes some consistency!

But isn’t there a grain of truth and a risk of losing sovereignty on the merits?

The Chinese have a presence in the small electric car market, where European automakers refuse to invest today. Moreover, there are almost no more entry-level thermal vehicles produced today in Europe. And no one accuses Brussels of having rolled out the red carpet in Morocco or Turkey. I would add that electrification gives us the opportunity to correct the situation, since it involves new investments. We can win this battle, but everyone – public authorities and industry – must play the game. This involves things on both sides.

That’s to say ?

We must indeed not transform a dependence on fossil fuels into a new dependence on China. This measure on the CO2 standard should not be taken in isolation from the rest of European policy on these subjects or on batteries for example. Our policy is also an industrial policy. 5 years ago we were nowhere on battery production, we will be second in the world in 5 years, when all the gigafactory will be deployed. I even hear that we will eventually be in overproduction…

There is also the question of the raw materials of the electric car. China is now unavoidable…

On raw materials, we are working on the “critical raw materials act” led by Thierry Breton, which aims to relocate the necessary production. It is also about developing alternatives to lithium-ion to use materials that we have. You have to do everything at the same time, and that is precisely what you are doing.

Doesn’t this measure also risk destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs?

This figure is exaggerated. There is no consensus on the magnitude of the potential impact on the sector. This is what we have asked the European Commission to analyze in order to support the players most affected, in particular equipment manufacturers.

In addition, to support the European employees of subcontractors affected by the end of the heat engine, we would like to see a European Just Transition Fund set up. The final negotiations launched a clear process towards which will lead to a legislative proposal in 2025. We were not able to include it directly in the text today, because it is not a budgetary text.

In China and the United States, governments protect this nascent industry with protectionist frameworks. Europe is not yet too naive?

There are two possible worlds. Either the major automotive powers – the United States, China, Europe, Japan and Korea – play the game of regionalization and each sells the cars it produces in its area, or we play collective by adopting common rules of the game. This would be the optimum in my eyes, but what is certain is that Europe cannot be the only one on the second option.

And if it’s the case ?

If the United States confirms its approach in favor of the made in USA, it is clear that we will have to do the same. The reverse would be incomprehensible. At some point, we cannot negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States and accept this rule of the game without reciprocity, this is the subject of the reflections in court in favor of a Buy European Act, strongly pushed by the President of the Republic, to protect our industry and promote the relocation of strategic activities.

Will consumers have to buy electric cars, which are more and more expensive?

Already today, in some cases, the full cost of using an electric car is lower than that of a thermal car, in particular because the maintenance cost is much lower. And it is to make up the difference in the purchase price that we are preparing this leasing measure at 100 euros per month for households who cannot afford a new car while being unable to pass from a car.

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