The European Commission will today (24 January) propose a package of measures that would require member states to build a minimum number of refuelling stations for alternative fuels by 2020.
The aim is to end the vicious circle in which consumers decline to buy alternative fuel cars because the infrastructure does not exist, and because there are too few alternative-fuel cars on the road there is no investment in infrastructure.
Under the proposal, member states would be required to set mandatory targets for electric charging stations and refuelling stations for hydrogen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). The Commission is proposing that CNG refuelling be available every 150km by 2020, while LNG should be available every 400km along Trans-European Core Network priority routes. LNG should also be available for ships in all 144 main maritime and inland ports of the EU by 2025.
The proposal would also harmonise standards. France is currently using a separate type of plug for electric vehicles, but the directive would mandate that they adopt the same type as the rest of Europe. The directive also sets common standards for hydrogen refuelling stations – to be in place by 2015.
The new proposal comes as biofuel has suffered a serious setback, with increasing concerns that existing biofuels cause more emissions than they abate because of the changing land use they require for production. The EU has set a goal of reducing emissions from transport by 60% by 2050. To achieve this, member states agreed that 10% of their transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2020. Existing plans have envisioned biofuel as the main driver.
But in October the Commission proposed to limit the use of first generation biofuels to 5%, meaning that member states must adjust their renewable energy scenarios to increase the use of other alternative fuel. The measures proposed today are not designed to increase biofuel use. The current share of renewable energy in transport is 4.7%.
“This is a small, but largely welcome, step towards breaking the monopoly of oil and biofuels that cause climate change,” said Jos Dings, director of green transport group T&E.
Germany, France, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands currently lead in development of electric vehicles in Europe, and they have already set national targets for vehicles for 2020. These range from a goal of one million in Germany to 2.5 million in Spain. The United States is the world's leader for electric vehicles, with almost twice as many as in the EU.
“Between them, China and the US plan to have more than six million electric vehicles on the road by 2020,” said Siim Kallas, European commissioner for transport. “This is a major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast-growing global market.”