European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has presented a new Industrial Policy Strategy, aimed at helping European industries become world leaders in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.
This Strategy will include proposals for low-emissions and connected mobility, such as the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Action Plan which will be released in the coming weeks, to support the deployment of charging infrastructure.
This is a welcome development as there is a clear need for an industrial policy at European level, particularly for the electric mobility sector which is at turning point. Moreover, industry represents two-thirds of the EU’s exports and provides jobs for over 32 million people across Europe.
Supporting the adoption of electric vehicles in the EU is a stated objective of the European Commission, and the Commission is already actively encouraging electric mobility through legislation, such as EU-wide technical specifications and investment.
Indeed, electric mobility contributes, as a renewable and carbon-free energy source type of transport, to the European Union targets on CO2 emissions reduction. Avoiding the use of oil as an energy source can also ensure security of supply.
In order to realise this objective, it is important that a cohesive and joint approach is pursued at EU level. The transition to electric vehicles will be dependent upon interoperable technologies and widespread adoption to create a viable market. As such, the legislation is being driven at a European level to avoid fragmented approaches across the Member States in terms of the technologies and standards adopted.
Last year, the Commission published a ‘European Strategy for low-emission mobility’. The three main objectives of this strategy are:
- Increasing the efficiency of the transport system
- Speeding up the deployment of low-emission alternative energy for transport
- Moving towards zero-emission vehicles
The plan includes elements that will help boost the demand of such vehicles, through improving customer information with the review of the Car Labelling Directive, and via incentives in public procurement rules, with the revision of the Clean Vehicles Directive.
The Commission is also working on post-2020 standards for cars and vans and electric vehicles could significantly improve air quality in European cities. The EU has therefore set aggressive emissions reduction targets for post-2020, and electric vehicles need to be massively deployed if these targets are to be achieved.
The Commission has acknowledged that the transition to low-emission mobility requires the deployment and market acceptance of alternative fuel-powered vehicles, with the adoption of the European Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive in 2014.
Its purpose is to foster the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure in Europe. Member States had until winter 2016 to implement the Directive at national level and adopt national policy frameworks.
Member States to install charging points in new or substantially refurbished buildings
The legislation also addresses the issue of the standardisation of charging points and technical specifications, in addition to access to information for consumers on the use of alternative fuels.
On top of the current implementation of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, a key element is being introduced by the Commission’s proposal for a revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as part of ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package. It asks Member States to install charging points in new or substantially refurbished buildings.
Indeed, one of the biggest obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles by customer is the limited availability of charging infrastructure. Hence, there is a need for business and financing models. A wide-availability of the corresponding charging infrastructure is therefore a key requirement. Journeys across Europe should be straightforward: this means electric charging must be as easy as filling the tank.
Governments and EU Institutions should make the right decisions in case of lack of spontaneous market development and investment.
Electric mobility is high on the agenda of the European Commission and in most Member States. A good reason for that is that electricity is domestically produced in Europe, and is getting ‘greener’.
Also, most of its infrastructure is already there i.e. the electricity grid. Only the charging points and stations are to be put in place.
Although European sales figures are still rather small, electric charging stations are being rolled out all over Europe and it seems that growth has gained speed in certain countries, such as Norway. Furthermore, thanks to public and government support, there is an increased choice of electric vehicles and a growing knowledge and willingness to buy on the consumer side.
However, in order to fully realise the potential of electric mobility and achieve large-scale deployment, legislation and new business ideas are essential in Europe.