Kallas: ‘Commission supports an integrated approach to urban mobility’

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The European Union is pushing for an "integrated approach" to developing the continent's urban infrastructure, encouraging public transport, cycling and the use of electric cars, said Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV Germany.

Siim Kallas is a former prime minister of Estonia and the current the European Union commissioner for transport.

He was speaking with EURACTIV Germany's Alexander Wragge.

Will mobility concepts in Europe's cities have to change fundamentally given our climate and sustainability aims?

The Commission supports an integrated approach to urban mobility that includes finding a sustainable balance between the different transport modes. Public transport, cycling and walking are already the main modes of urban transport for many of our citizens.

Even more citizens might be tempted to use their cars less often for trips in their cities if good alternatives exist. But we can make public transport, walking and cycling more attractive and increase security and safety.

This could help us reduce congestion and noise and pollutant emissions and contribute to better health conditions. Significant financial support from community funds is provided to help cities develop these modes of transport. 

What are the aims of eMotion? What is being researched?

Green eMotion (€24 million EC contribution) will connect ongoing regional and national electromobility initiatives leveraging on the results and comparing the different technology approaches to promote the best solutions for the European market.

A virtual marketplace will be created to enable the different actors to interact and to allow for new high-value transportation services as well as EV-user convenience in billing. Furthermore, the project will demonstrate integration into electrical networks as well as solutions for electric vehicles themselves.

It will contribute to the improvement and development of new and existing standards for electromobility interfaces. The elaborated technological solutions will be demonstrated in all participating demonstration regions to prove the interoperability of the framework.

Green eMotion will facilitate the understanding of all stakeholders about the parameters which influence the achievement of best possible results for society, environment as well as economy and thus ensure transfer of best practices.

As a result, policy makers, urban planners and electric utilities will receive a reference model for a sustainable rollout of electromobility in Europe.

Many cities are taking part in this programme (Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Rome…). Will Europe's cities be frontrunners when it comes to eMobility?

Cities might be frontrunners for electromobility solutions since electric vehicles are well-adapted to urban vehicle mission profiles. Additionally, the electrical infrastructure can readily be upgraded in cities, as can support services – leading to greater impact.

Are there any predictions as to when eMobility will have its breakthrough in Europe's cities?

The European Commission communication on clean and energy-efficient vehicles indicates that market share in new car sales will be between 1 and 2% in 2020 rising between 11 and 30% in 2030 for battery electric vehicles.

For plug-in hybrid vehicles a share of 2% is foreseen in 2020 and between 5 and 20% in 2030. We expect this market share mainly in cities.

Which kind of support is necessary for the switch to eMobility? Subsidies? Research grants? Standards? Legislative guidelines?

Policy lines and concrete actions already under way and to come over the next years on clean and energy efficient vehicles have been set out in the Commission's communication on "A European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles" of 28 April 2010.

Measures in support of an accelerated market introduction of new vehicle technologies, such as electric cars, have to be taken with a long-term view. A total of 45 concrete actions are identified in the action plan contained in the Commission communication.

E-cars have the highest market share in New York and Shanghai. Is Europe in danger of losing touch? How does the European Commission support cities' transition to eMobilty and new mobility concepts?

The European Union has an objective of 10% renewables in road transport fuels by 2020. The Commission has been taking a technology-neutral approach in this context. All candidates for alternative fuels or carriers therefore have to be measured against the future EU 2020 strategy and the future White Paper on transport policy. 

Electricity is one of the main candidates as an energy carrier to power transport. Electrification of road transport could be an important way to meet EU policy objectives in security of energy supply and green house gas reduction.

However, technical and economic uncertainties are still too high to rely on a single solution. In agreement with most stakeholders, Europe should support a package of the candidates for future transport fuels to ensure sustainable mobility for our future generations.

Main candidates to substitute oil are electricity, biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen and liquefied petroleum gas.

Additionally, the Commission established in 2002 the Civitas Initiative (EC contribution around €200 million). Funded through the EU Research Framework Programme, Civitas has since helped European municipalities to demonstrate innovative technologies and policy-based measures and novel concepts and to turn them into tested urban mobility solutions. For this Civitas provides cities with a platform for cooperation and exchange of best practice.

The Initiative has helped cities to build the knowledge base for developing and implementing sustainable, integrated and innovative urban transport and mobility plans and supported a close cross-border cooperation in this endeavour.

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