Soon there will be no more new internal combustion engines on the roads of the EU. That’s not a good idea. The EU must leave more room for innovation: there are better rules than a ban on combustion engines.

So much in advance: of course something has to happen, of course, car traffic has to be forced to protect the climate. Motorists will not voluntarily give up the convenience of driving 700 kilometers and then filling up again within four minutes. Most drivers will not voluntarily pay more money to reduce CO2 emissions. But the way the EU is planning it is wrong.

On Wednesday, the EU Parliament passed a rule that means that in 2035 there will only be new cars in the EU that are electrically powered. Other forms of propulsion, no matter how climate-neutral, are now practically impossible. This will make the transport turnaround more expensive and probably also slow it down. The problem with the matter: The EU not only prescribes the goal – namely climate neutrality – but also the technology. But nobody knows how things will develop in the next 13 years.

Today, most experts agree: Battery-powered cars are the most promising option. Other forms of propulsion have major disadvantages, such as synthetic fuels, which are created by taking CO2 from the air and processing it into fuel. The process consumes a lot of energy and is expensive, there are no plants on an industrial scale, and what can be produced in the foreseeable future is needed more urgently elsewhere. gift. However, synthetic fuels also have their advantages: They are easy to transport, so they can also be produced in energy-rich regions and brought to Central Europe. And they can be more easily distributed along the routes that already exist today – on water and on roads. Will the balance change in a few years? Probably not, but maybe yes. Maybe there will be a whole new technology. Nobody knows how the world will look in 13 years.

13 years ago, Tesla was just a startup that no one believed in

Let’s look back 13 years to the year 2009. During this time, German energy policy has turned around several times. The North Stream 1 pipeline was under construction at the time, gas from Russia was not yet being used on a large scale, but was considered a beacon of hope for energy supply. In the 13 years since 2009, the service life of German nuclear power plants has first been extended (namely 2010) and then radically shortened (2011).

Would you like another technique? Apple had just moved away from just equipping its smartphones with its own software and had launched the App Store. It wasn’t until 2010 that an entire app economy emerged and smartphones began to replace computers. Nobody was as surprised by this as Apple itself. Or should we talk about cars? At the Detroit auto show 13 years ago, a loud-mouthed start-up called Tesla presented an electronic sports car. Many looked fascinated, but hardly anyone believed it would be a success. Back then, Tesla was as important as synthetic fuels are today.

The EU is already ruling out such surprises. She seems confident that no start-up will make a splash in the next 13 years. In doing so, it cuts off too many opportunities to make the turnaround in transport more convenient and cheaper in the years to come.

How is it better?

So how could it be better? The best thing would be what Germany is already doing, but which the EU itself failed to do last week: to finally include the transport sector in emissions trading. It cannot be reminded often enough: Above all, emissions trading means that CO2 emissions are capped. Only the politically specified amount of emissions is allowed and can be sold from one company to another via a certificate. Where emissions trading applies, it has achieved its political goals in recent years. It’s the EU’s most successful climate change effort, and it’s all been done surprisingly cheaply. Hamburg’s controversial Moorburg coal-fired power plant was shut down last year without much outcry – not least because CO2 certificates had become too expensive in emissions trading. Politicians should fully reimburse the income from the certificates to the citizens. The EU is not planning that either, and that makes acceptance of emissions trading enormously difficult. Alternatively, the EU could individually stipulate that cars may no longer emit CO2, but keep the technology open.

It is often said that the industry needs a signal of where to go. She shall have that. The EU can show the way to batteries and support charging stations. But banning surprises altogether is not good policy. No, good politics is like good management: You set the goal, and those affected choose the path themselves.