Stellantis boss Carlos Tavares has called on government legislators to stick to a set of stable future regulations for the automotive industry and avoid adding anything that adds “confusion to chaos”.
Speaking to Autocar on a visit to Vauxhall’s Luton factory, Tavares was reacting to the European Union’s plans to allow e-fuel-powered internal combustion engined cars to be exempt from laws that will see only electric cars allowed to be sold from 2036.
Tavares said he welcomed e-fuels as a way to power the 1.4 billion non-electric cars that will be on the roads, even if a full switch was made to EVs for new car sales, and, more generally, an interesting future fuel that his internal combustion engines were already compatible with.
But, he highlighted that the broadening of legislation for e-fuels undermined the regulatory path already set towards battery electric cars at the very time when investments and implementation plans had been set for the next 20 years.
“The first scenario is they don't break the paradigms,” said Tavares on whether e-fuels can prove to be truly carbon neutral and brought down dramatically in cost. “Then we are safe, and we keep on pushing the EVs.
“The second scenario is they break the paradigms. What do we do [then]? Because we still have 12 years, right [before the 2036 ban]? What happens if some of those guys come up with a breakthrough and they say we found a way to reduce the manufacturing costs of the e-fuels tremendously, and now without tax they are in the similar playground?
“Do I have the answers to these questions? No. But you see, this is the big problem of what we are doing. To execute the current strategy you need 20 years. What is the probability that within a 20-year time window nobody comes laterally with a breakthrough saying "I found something which is a much lower cost for the society, a much better result for the planet and much easier to execute?”
Tavares’s underlying point is one against politicians setting regulations that are not technology agnostic, and there are alternative ways to reduce emissions.
He said: “There is no dogma, it's just about the fact that we have been working for a century in the fine tuning of technology. And then suddenly, the outside world would like us to make the same efficiency with a brand new technology that has a very limited amount of time to be optimised.
“Politicians are very respectful, [but] I’m not really sure they are listening. I'm just sharing this observation, not in an aggressive mode because I would not like to be a political leader nowadays. I think that's an impossible job. So my respect to them. But at the same time if nobody asks the difficult questions, then who will?