Brussels mandates roll-out of electric-car ‘recharging points’

Barroso and his electric car.

The EU has pledged a huge expansion of infrastructure for electric vehicles with binding targets to multiply the number of Europe’s charging stations, part of a new strategy to kickstart Europe’s low-carbon automotive industry.

“We need targets,” Commission Vice President Siim Kallas told a Brussels press conference, as he launched the EU’s clean fuel strategy on Thursday (24 January).  

“We propose that a minimum number of electric charging units is needed in each EU member state by 2020, and at least 10% of these should be publicly accessible.”

The €10-billion plan, mostly funded by industry, is intended to break the “vicious circle” which prevents low-carbon vehicles being manufactured because of a lack of infrastructure.  

Future EU proposals could be equally dramatic with moves under consideration to reserve parking space and car lanes for low-carbon vehicles. Both were “extremely valuable instruments that can be used to good effect,” an EU official said.

In the current proposal, as well as electric cars, the EU sets out quotas for hydrogen and compressed natural gas (CNG), and liquefied natural gas (LNG) filling stations.

The number of required electric charging points varies according to each country’s production plans. The UK, Germany and France for example have 2020 targets for producing 1.55 million, 1 million and 2 million electric vehicles, respectively.

So in the UK, the number of charging points would increase from 703 last year to 1.22 million, 10% of which would be publicly funded. In Germany, the number of charging points would rise from 1,937 to 1.5 million and in France, from 1,600 to 970,000.

“We don’t consider that the targets for each state will create a problem,” said Kallas, who is in charge of transport. “It is affordable and I don’t see there will be such a resistance that needs punitive actions.”

Plug standardisation

However, reaction to the proposals was muted in Paris, after the Commission ruled in favour of standardising a rival German ‘Type 2’ plug for electric charging infrastructure.

France believes this may give German car manufacturers an edge in the looming battle for the electric vehicle market.

Car manufacturers, which have previously blamed a lack of infrastructure and harmonised plugs for delays to electric vehicle roll out’s welcomed the package as “a step in the right direction”.

The plug standardisation in particular “provides predictability to investors, enables economies of scale, reduces costs for all stakeholders and is essential in increasing user acceptance,” Cara McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said in a statement.

Hydrogen, LNG, CNG

For hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the Commission is proposing a maximum distance between refuelling stations of 300 km, to assuage the same fears about ‘range anxiety’ addressed in the electric charging points expansion.

The Commission also wants LNG filling stations installed in the core 10% of maritime and inland ports by 2020. Sweden is planning to open the EU’s first liquefied natural gas facility within weeks.

A network of LNG terminals at 400-km intervals is also mandated for trucks, and CNG filling points every 150 km. Common standards for hydrogen, CNG and LNG filling stations should be developed by December 2015.   

Jos Dings, director of the Transport and Environment think tank, said the Commission’s combined measures were a welcome piece in a much more complex jigsaw needed to decarbonise European transport by 2050.

“We do need to break the monopoly that liquid fuels have on the transport market but we also need better vehicles, pricing and infrastructure, the whole shebang,” he told EURACTIV.  

“This is definitely a step that needs to be taken – particularly the electric charging points – and it does propose something meaningful, but by no means will this resolve the question of sustainable transport by itself.”

Out of a Europe-wide fleet of around 200 million passenger cars, there are currently around 11,000 electric vehicles in the EU countries, and about one million automobiles powered by compressed natural gas. 

“No mandatory target has been set for LPG infrastructure as Europe is already extensively covered by the LPG filling station network,” David Appleton, the Communications Manager for the European LPG Association (AEGPL) pointed out to EURACTIV in an email. "As there are already 27,000 LPG filling stations across Europe, there is no mandated target," he said, adding that there were currently seven million  cars running on LPG in the EU..

Passenger cars alone are responsible for around 12% of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.

In 2007, the EU proposed legislation setting emission performance standards for new cars, which was adopted in 2009 by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. Today's EU targets ensure that average emissions from new passenger cars do not exceed 130 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) by 2015.

A White Paper on Transport, presented by the Commission in February 2011, flagged measures to raise the €1.8 trillion which the EU says is needed for infrastructure investment in the next 20 years.

Proposals published earlier this year have set a further targets of 95 grams for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans. By the end of 2014, new targets could be announced for 2025 and 2030.

  • 2013: Review of 2020 automobile CO2 target expected to wrap up
  • 31 Dec. 2014: EU expected to complete review of targets for 2020 and 2025
  • 1 Jan. 2015: 130 grams of CO2 per km target to be enforced across Europe
  • Dec. 2015: Deadline for common standards for hydrogen CNG and LNG refuelling stations in new clean transport package
  • 2016: US to introduce 35 mpg standard for all new passenger cars
  • 2020: Deadline for new alternative fuel refuelling stations in new clean transport package
  • 2020: 95 grams of CO2 per km target expected to enter force across Europe
  • 2025: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonisation by 2050
  • 2025: US to introduce 54.5 mpg standard for all new passenger cars
  • 2030: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonisation by 2050

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