The European Union’s decision to allow German and Italian car makers to carry on making combustion engines after 2035 has raised hopes that sports cars could be saved from the net-zero scrap heap.

European manufacturers will now still be allowed to manufacture cars that use so-called e-fuels, which are a greener alternative to petrol and diesel.

The decision raised hopes that the UK might follow suit.

For now, the Government’s policy is unchanged - there was no provision for synthetic petrol or diesel in the energy-security plan unveiled yesterday.

However, the Telegraph says industry insiders remain hopeful.

Many in the car sector argue that e-fuels will have an important role to play in making the car industry cleaner.


E-fuels, or synthetic fuels, mimic petrol, diesel and other fossil fuels as they are made with the same combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms.

However, rather than being removed from the ground, refined and burnt, they are made from water and air using green electricity.

These e-fuels raise the prospect that classic cars and other older models could continue to run even after new combustion engines stop rolling off manufacturing lines.

The EU decision has also reinvigorated the debate over how to quickly clean up the car industry.

Is it greener to take the world’s billions of refined oil-burning cars and run them on carbon-neutral fuel rather than wait for battery cars to slowly replace them?

Andy Palmer, the former boss of Aston Martin, was also pioneer of battery cars as the architect of the electric Nissan Leaf’s success..

Greener car industry

He said e-fuels have a role to play in making the car industry greener.

Electric-car adoption is limited by the availability of lithium and other minerals that are crucial to battery production.

E-fuels offer a useful bridge while the industry seeks to ramp up battery supply.

However, Mr Palmer told the Telegraph they should be used sparingly because hot combustion engines still produce harmful gases like nitrous oxide and particulates.

And, if synthetic fuels become too cheap, they will dominate the market and slow down electric adoption, ruining the government’s targets and the move to cleaner cars.

Mr Palmer said: “What you can't allow to happen is this suddenly becomes a panacea solution to meeting net zero and demolishing the move to electric vehicles. That's what you have to be really, really careful about.”


He added that, if e-fuels are plentiful, “why would you move to electric?”.

Mr Palmer went on: “What happens then is you may solve the net zero, but what you don't do is you don't solve the air cleanliness.”

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