The European Commission wants to break up the vicious circle that hampers the use of clean fuels in European cars: Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.
For Ireland the Commission is proposing to increase the number of charging points from the current 640 points to 2,000 by 2020 which should serve 350,000 electric cars by then.
EC Vice President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, says. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market.”
The main measures proposed are:
Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices.
A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel. To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the “Type 2” plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.
Hydrogen: Germany, Italy and Denmark already have a significant number of hydrogen refuelling stations although some of them are not publicly accessible. Common standards are still needed for certain components such as fuel hoses. Under this proposal, existing filling stations will be linked up to form a network with common standards ensuring the mobility of Hydrogen vehicles. This applies to the 14 Member States which currently have a Hydrogen network.
Biofuels: already have nearly 5% of the market. They work as blended fuels and do not require any specific infrastructure. A key challenge will be to ensure their sustainability.
LNG: Liquefied natural gas is used for trucks, but there are only 38 filling stations in the EU. The Commission is proposing that by 2020, refuelling stations are installed every 400 km along the roads of the Trans European Core Network.
CNG: Compressed natural gas is mainly used for cars. One million vehicles currently use this fuel representing 0.5% of the fleet – the industry aims to increase this figure ten-fold by 2020. The Commission proposal will ensure that publically accessible refuelling points, with common standards, are available Europe-wide with maximum distances of 150 Km by 2020.
Member States will be able to implement these changes without necessarily involving public spending by changing local regulations to encourage private sector investment and behaviour. EU support is already available from TEN-T funds, cohesion and structural funds.