The European Union will aim to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030, as it seeks to steer countries away from fossil fuel-based transport, according to a draft EU document.
In a strategy due to be published this week, the European Commission will lay out measures to tackle emissions from the transport sector.
Transport makes up almost a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and almost 30% of CO2 emissions, 72% of which come from road transport.
Hitting Europe’s climate targets will require “at least” 30 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030, according to the document.
“The EU’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050 cannot be reached without introducing very ambitious measures to reduce transport’s reliance on fossil fuels,” it read.
It is a huge step up from the 1.8 million electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in Europe at the end of last year, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, especially as hybrids are not zero-emission vehicles.
With countries including France and Slovenia setting out end dates for the sale of new fossil-fuel cars, Europe’s low-emission vehicle sales are growing fast and continued to increase through the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
The Commission has also highlighted the importance of electric vehicles in its green finance taxonomy, saying only cars which emit no CO2 will be counted as a “sustainable” investment as of 2026.
However, industry has warned that a lack of infrastructure could hamper future sales of clean cars.
The EU document estimates Europe will need 3 million public charging points and 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2030. The EU currently only has about 200,000 charging points.
The document promises a “roll-out plan with funding opportunities and requirements” for these next year.
There are big hurdles sourcing the fuel for this transition. Over 90% of hydrogen currently comes from fossil fuel and renewable capacity needs to be built up to ensure zero-emission, clean hydrogen.
New research also shows that powering just a fraction of vehicles with e-fuels like hydrogen in 2050 would require new offshore wind-farms the size of Denmark.
Transport and Environment, a clean transport campaign group, say the study shows that e-fuels, those produced using electricity, should be prioritised for ships and planes.
Powering just 10% of cars, vans and small trucks with hydrogen and 10% with e-diesel would require 41% more renewables in 2050 than if electric vehicles ran on batteries.
But batteries for electric vehicles are also problematic, relying on the supply of metals like cobalt and lithium, which are currently imported into the EU. The soft, silvery-white alkali metal was added to the EU list of critical raw materials earlier this year and the Commission believes Europe can become almost entirely self-sufficient on home production of lithium by 2025.
The Commission also said Europe could produce enough batteries by 2025 to power its fast-growing fleet of electric vehicles without relying on imported cells.
“I am confident that, by 2025, the EU will be able to produce enough battery cells to meet the needs of the European automotive industry, and even to build our export capacity,” Šefčovič told the online European Conference on Batteries.
The Commission declined to comment on the draft, which is subject to change before publication.
The EU will next year propose tighter CO2 emissions standards for cars and vans from 2025, and the draft document says they could be expanded to cover buses.
The document also said Europe’s high speed rail traffic should double by 2030 and triple by 2050, while zero-emissions aircraft and ships need to be market-ready by 2035.