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The European Union needs to rethink its policies to make a 2035 ban on new petrol car sales feasible as electric vehicles remain unaffordable and alternative fuel options are not credible, the EU’s external auditor said, jeopardizing its 2050 climate goals.

The 27-member bloc wants to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, meaning it will emit no more than it can balance out with measures to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere such as reforestation programs.

It hopes to meet its targets with the widespread use of electric vehicles as road transport accounts for nearly a quarter of its emissions.

The EU wants to have at least 30 million zero-emission cars on European roads by 2030, or about 12 per cent of the current car fleet. However, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) cautioned the bloc may create new economic dependencies and hurt its own industry.

As it stands, high EV production costs in Europe mean the bloc will have to rely on cheap imports, mainly from China, if it sticks to the 2035 goal. China accounts for 76 per cent of EV battery output compared with the EU that represents less than 10 per cent of production globally.

“The EU faces a conundrum, how to meet goals without harming industrial policy and hurting consumers,” Annemie Turtelboom, an ECA member, told reporters. She added that 2026 will be a key year for a policy review.

Tesla is the leading EV maker in the United States and Europe but has come under pressure to slash prices because of competition from Chinese cars. Similarly, European car makers such as Stellantis that owns Peugeot and Fiat, and Renault are now racing to develop their own affordable EV models.

While EV purchases have been on the rise in the EU, the increase was largely because of subsidies. Further, charging infrastructure is lacking with 70 per cent of charging points concentrated in just Germany, France and the Netherlands. The EU is falling short of its aim to set up one million charging stations across the bloc.

“[EV] prices would need to halve and subsidies do not seem to be a viable tool. … Batteries alone already costs €15,000 when produced in Europe,” Ms. Turtleboom added when speaking to reporters.

Alternative fuels such as biofuels, e-fuels or hydrogen remain uneconomic at commercial scale.

Adding to the difficulties in hitting its 2050 goal, the ECA said the EU has not cut real CO2 emissions from cars despite new testing standards and measures such as Euro 6.

In a January report, the ECA attributes this to the gap between laboratory tests and real-world emission tests. The Commission was relying on lab tests, which created a skewed version. In reality, average emissions from diesel cars are the unchanged from 2010 at 170 grams of CO2 per kilometre while petrol cars are just down 4.6 per cent at more than 160 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

“Despite lofty ambitions and strict requirements, most conventional cars still emit as much CO2 as 12 years ago,” Nikolaos Milionis, ECA member, said in a statement, attributing part of the failure to a rise in the average weight of cars.

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