In preparation for a White Paper on transport published yesterday (28 March), the Commission's directorate-general for transport commissioned a Eurobarometer study to assess the popularity of one of the EU executive's proposals, referred to as "pay as you drive" taxation.
The idea is to internalise all costs of driving, such as congestion, noise pollution and accidents, and to make people pay for the services they actually use.
In this, the proposal resembles the Eurovignette scheme, which affects heavy trucks and is currently being used on roads in Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The new tax system would replace the current 'flat rate' of registration and road tax, which do not take into account at what time or how often a driver uses a vehicle, nor the noise and pollution levels of the vehicle.
50% of the respondents supported the new scheme; 16% were strongly in favour. 31% were opposed to such a system, of whom 13% were strongly against the scheme. A little under 20% of respondents were undecided.
Car users were more likely to oppose replacing existing car taxes with a pay-as-you-drive system (37% as opposed to 24% of public transport users).
Among car users, respondents from Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Belgium were the most favourable to a pay-as-you-drive system.
However, if it were to be adopted this scheme would go even further than the Eurovignette system, in that it would actually replace current taxation schemes. To be adopted by member states, it would have to provide high enough tax revenues to offset revenue losses.
This is particularly critical as car use in West European countries is decreasing annually and therefore, in a pay-as-you-drive system, revenue would also fall.
The new White Paper also proposes to introduce speed limits for commercial vehicles and speed-limiting devices for private cars. According to the poll, half of Europeans are in favour of such a move.
62% of Europeans are also prepared to buy smaller cars to benefit the environment, while 56% would be happy to compromise on a car's range, for example by buying electric cars that are still more dependent on the necessary infrastructure, like charging stations, being put in place.
However, EU citizens were least likely (54%) to say they would be willing to compromise on purchase price to reduce emissions.
Emilie Binois for EurActiv France and autoactu.com.