By Ilona Wissenbach and Jan Schwartz
MUNICH (Reuters) – The EU deal to phase out combustion engine cars in just over 12 years is challenging, but an more daunting obstacle will be making enough batteries to power the electric cars needed as a result, a senior Volkswagen executive said on Wednesday.
The comment came after EU countries clinched deals on proposed laws to combat climate change early on Wednesday, including one requiring new cars sold in the EU to emit zero CO2 from 2035.
That would make it impossible to sell internal-combustion engine cars.
The European Commission had first proposed the package last summer, aimed at slashing planet-warming emissions this decade, but the deal overnight makes it likely that the proposal will become EU law.
“The most challenging topic is not ramping up the car plants. The most challenging topic will be ramping up the battery supply chain.”
VW has said it will stop selling combustion engine cars in the region by the target, but some carmakers further behind in the race to develop EVs such as Toyota may struggle to meet the target. The Japanese carmaker declined to comment on Wednesday.
Major carmakers have been racing to secure battery cell supplies, but finding enough battery raw materials may be a bigger problem.
Failure to obtain adequate supplies of lithium, nickel, manganese or cobalt could slow the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), make those vehicles more expensive and threaten carmakers profit margins.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said last month that he expects a shortage of EV batteries will hit the auto industry in 2024-2025 as manufacturers try to ramp up electric vehicle sales while still building new battery factories.
The agreement in Luxembourg came after more than 16 hours of negotiations, with Italy, Slovakia and other states wanting the phase-out delayed to 2040.
The 2035 proposal is designed so that in theory, any type of car technology such as hybrids or cars running on sustainable fuels could comply with it, as long as it means the car has no carbon dioxide emissions.
The Commission’s 2026 review would assess what technological advances have been made in hybrid cars to see if they can comply with the 2035 goal.
(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Jan Schwartz and Joe White in Munich; additional reporting by Nick Carey in London, Kate Abnett in Brussels and Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Writing by Josephine Mason in London; editing by David Evans)