European Union (EU) energy ministers on Tuesday approved a ban on the production and sale of new cars using traditional fossil fuel engines by 2035. However, opposition from four ministers brought to light divisions between member states over the issue.
Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained from Tuesday's vote, while Poland voted against the new measure, which aims to tackle climate change by speeding up the transition to electric vehicles.
The Czech Republic also expressed its opposition to the measure, although the country's energy minister eventually voted in favor of it.
Although the legislation approved Tuesday does not explicitly ban the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars, it calls for greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles to be eliminated by 2035. This means that no new cars using conventional internal combustion engines can be sold after that date.
Emissions from vehicles represent around a fourth of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Rome, Sofia, Warsaw, and Bucharest are seeking to soften the new rules, or delay the deadline for implementation of the measure.
Meanwhile, on Saturday Germany struck a deal with the European Commission, and subsequently voted in favor of the measure. The German deal allows for the continued sale of non-electric vehicles that run on non-polluting synthetic fuels.
The agreement with Germany was key to gaining approval for the wider measure, which was originally scheduled for a vote in November last year.
"We have found an agreement with Germany on the future use of e-fuels in cars," Frans Timmermans, the European Commission's executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, announced on social media. "We will work now on getting the CO2 standards for cars regulation adopted as soon as possible, and the Commission will follow up swiftly with the necessary legal steps."
Italy has been lobbying for an even broader exemption for cars running on a wider range of biofuels. On Tuesday, Italian Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin said the country "believes that biofuels can also fall into the category of neutral fuels in terms of overall CO2 balance, and contribute to the progressive de-carbonization of the sector."
The countries opposing the measure say they are concerned that a full transition away from gasoline and diesel-powered cars within 12 years would push vehicle prices too high too quickly, adding to inflationary pressures and acting as a drag on economic growth.
German sports car maker Porsche and its Italian rival Ferrari have also complained that the batteries required for high-powered electric vehicles would make the cars too heavy to perform up to manufacturer standards.