He considers it to be the greatest industrial transformation that Europe has faced and is therefore a bit afraid of it. But Thierry Breton, European Commissioner in charge of the internal market and industry, intends to stand up and announces that Europe will team up to achieve its objectives in terms of electrification of the automotive market.
“I have decided to create a very relevant group, which will start working in the first half of December with all parties: suppliers of carbon-free electricity, manufacturers of chargers, batteries and key components and industry, to support the automotive transition” .
“The automotive industry, perhaps more than others, needs to undergo a structural transformation in order to achieve the 2035 goal of no longer selling combustion engines on our continent. This goal is very important.”
The mission of the working group
Thierry Breton had already anticipated the birth of this working group in the media a few weeks ago. He explained that meetings will be held every three months and that, among the topics discussed, there will be the follow-up of “technological progress, in order to have time, if necessary, to adjust the trajectories and to consider ‘other options’ .
And what are the other options? These are mainly e-fuels, energies which should be reassessed by the European Commission in 2026. Thus, if they turn out to be as clean as announced, Europe could review its positions vis-a-vis of the heat engine.
But the task of the working group will above all be to define strategies to ensure an ever greater production of renewable energies, to encourage the installation of charging stations, to source raw materials for the batteries, to ensure the same level of jobs and lower the prices of electric cars for consumers, “which remain inaccessible to most Europeans today” , says Thierry Breton.
Maintain the same level of jobs
“The automotive sector provides 12.7 million direct and indirect jobs in Europe, or 6.6% of employment share in all of Europe” , explained Thierry Breton. The priority will therefore be to maintain this figure.
Thierry Breton nevertheless fears the possible “destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs” . Its forecasts point to “around 600,000” jobs at risk at European level, even if, on closer inspection, it does not take into account all the new jobs linked to the energy transition.
“I’ve never been concerned about automakers’ ability to accelerate electrification ,” he explained. “My concerns have always been about people: consumers and workers.”
A fund for the automobile
Thierry Breton is also thinking of dedicating a fund to the reconversion of the automotive sector. The objective is to ensure a “just” transition , especially in regions such as “the surroundings of Turin, in Italy, or others in Germany, which will feel a strong impact” .
More cars made in Europe
In Thierry Breton’s sights are also the United States, accused of protectionism with regard to the electric car industry. The Reducing Inflation Act, a package of environmental and health reforms that includes, among other things, incentives for battery-powered cars with the label “made in the USA”, absolutely does not please not to Europe.
If the effects of the law “are already being felt, with several companies having begun to divert significant parts of the European value chain abroad” , Thierry Breton wants to respond with legislation on raw materials, which will be presented “at the first quarter of 2023” and promises “an industry made in Europe” . The real game is therefore played on the geopolitical chessboard so as not to find ourselves stuck between the United States and China.
The thorny Euro 7 case
Before concluding, Thierry Breton applauded the European Commission’s projects concerning the Euro 7 standard, because despite the ban which will arrive in 2035, ” in 2050, there will still be at least 20% of cars with internal combustion engines on the roads “ .
Nevertheless, according to him, “there is a risk that the 2035 target will have to be abandoned” . The reasons ? The demand from other continents, which have not necessarily made a decision yet and which will still need internal combustion engines, while the manufacturers remain mostly upwind against this decision.