Eco-elitism and electric cars

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Despite its humble roots, the modern environmental movement is often charged with elitism.

Think of the stereotypical, middle-class environmentalist, happily handing over a few extra euros to ensure their vegetables are organic, splashing out for better quality clothes while sneering at fast fashion, rolling their eyes at the ticket prices of CO2-spewing budget airlines in front of their designed-in-California laptop, sipping ethically sourced cappuccino – made with oat milk, of course…

Far from its beatnik, hippie roots, modern environmentalism seems to be considered the domain of a certain well-heeled individual, one righteously judgemental of those who opt for products that aren’t kind to the climate (the fact that goods made within the planet’s boundaries are somehow more expensive than their throw-away counterparts is another discussion).

And electric cars, with their high price tag, do little to shake the perception that going green is designed for the wealthy.

For many consumers, fully electric cars are an eco-friendly status symbol. Walk the wealthier suburbs of Brussels, for example, and electric vehicles abound. In disadvantaged areas, they are scarcely seen.

There are excellent reasons to opt for an electric car, including lower running costs and significantly reduced environmental impact. But the asking price means deciding on the pros and cons of EV ownership remains a concern of the well-off.

Indeed, EURACTIV’s reporting from across Europe shows that for many in eastern and southern Europe, electric vehicles are yet to become a realistic option.

A poorly-developed second-hand market for electric vehicles, confusion over subscriptions for charging services, and concerns over the degradation of batteries (not to mention their autonomy) continue to hamper electric vehicle adoption, compounding frequently mentioned issues such as high upfront costs and a lack of charging infrastructure.

A EURACTIV investigation shows that national incentives generally do not reduce the cost of electric vehicles enough to be affordable to most consumers – indeed, some see the reductions as merely a gift to those who could likely afford the full asking price anyway.

Businesses account for a large portion of the electric vehicle uptake, taking advantage of financial incentives aimed at encouraging the move away from polluting vehicles.

Armed with lawyers and accountants who are paid to understand the tax code, corporations are well positioned to benefit from the incentives for going electric. For individuals of fewer means, this is a more difficult proposition.

Of course, the market is rapidly changing, and this is, presumably, temporary. The European Commission predicts that the price of electric vehicles will fall in the coming years, dipping below the current price of internal combustion engine vehicles as early as 2027.

But for now, the electric vehicle revolution is one that is bypassing many Europeans.

Read the full story below.

Omicron threatens supply chains

Organisations representing road, air, and sea transport have jointly condemned world leaders’ rush to shut borders and ramp up restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, saying their reaction puts the global supply chain at greater risk of collapse.

In a joint statement, the groups call on governments to ensure the freedom of movement of international transport workers.

“After nearly two years of dealing with COVID-19, we should have progressed beyond these knee-jerk, uncoordinated, Pavlovian-like responses,” said Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“Border restrictions that block air crews from doing their jobs will do nothing to prevent this while inflicting serious harm to still-recovering global supply chains and local economies,” he warned.

Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), was similarly critical.

“The same governments that have blocked global vaccine access are now the first to lock down their borders to keep the Omicron variant out. Instead of pursuing a global solution to this pandemic, their decisions further risk supply chain collapse,” he said.

“It’s not only morally reprehensible, it’s economic self-destruction,” Cotton added.

In addition to IATA and ITF, the message was endorsed by the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Road Transport Union. Jointly, the groups represent 65 million global transport workers.

Read the statement here.

European airlines rated by pilots

European pilots have ranked European airlines from best to worst to work for, with Air France emerging as the pilots’ carrier of choice.

The survey was conducted by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), who asked pilots to judge their employer based on criteria including contractual arrangements, union relations, collective bargaining, and work-life balance.

KLM and Lufthansa also made it into the top third of airlines to work for, achieving a rating of “Social Excellence”.

Companies including Brussels Airlines, SAS, and TAP were given the rank of “Social Partner”, meaning the airlines generally scored well but pilots see room for improvement.

Turkish Airlines, Malta air, and Aegean airlines underperformed in some areas, landing them in the “Social Snail” category, while the low score of budget airlines Ryanair, Buzz, and Wizz saw them relegated to the “Social Misfits” category.

The final category of “Social Junk” was reserved for small airlines SmartLynx and Avion Express.

“Many pilots speak of exploitation, abuse, by-passing European laws, disregard for safety, and other mal-practices in certain airlines,” said Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA secretary-general.

“It is therefore important to pull the curtain for anybody who wants to see these practices – be it authorities, policy-makers, EU Institutions, or the travelling public.”

To read a summary of the survey, click here.

A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

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Listen to EU policymakers and you will come away convinced that the electric vehicle revolution is firmly underway. But a EURACTIV investigation into electric vehicle uptake across the continent challenges this narrative, revealing serious barriers to EV acceptance across eastern and southern Europe.

E-fuel-powered cars emit as much pollutants as fossil fuels, study finds

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€2 billion ‘Clean Hydrogen Partnership’ signals move away from hydrogen cars

Fuel-cell cars once looked to be the future of green mobility but with electric vehicles now set to dominate the market, the EU’s hydrogen joint undertaking was rebranded this week to signal a shift in priority towards the production of low-cost green hydrogen from electrolysis.

Lithium from German geothermal plants could supply a million electric vehicles a year from 2025

Batteries made with zero-emission lithium from geothermal plants in Germany could power one million vehicles per year by the mid-2020s, according to Vulcan Energy, a company setting out to produce climate neutral lithium in Europe.

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