Energy Union pushes for e-mobility and alternative fuels in transport

Alternative fuels and e-mobility are set to make EU's transport sector greener. [Alpiq AG/Flickr]

The European Commission plans further steps to decarbonise the transport sector through a shift to alternative fuels and electro-mobility, according to the latest draft of the Energy Union proposal, which will be officially presented later today.

The transport sector is responsible for a quarter of EU carbon emissions and consumes more than 30% of the EU’s total energy intake.  

The use of alternative fuels like biodiesel, electricity, or liquefied natural gas, could increase the sector’s energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, the Commission believes.

According to the draft proposal, the Commission will take steps to encourage “a gradual transformation of the entire transport system”. It intends to promote the development of better infrastructures, such as refuelling and recharging stations, to help different modes of transport switch to using alternative fuels.

Legislation on “decarbonising the transport sector, including an action plan on alternative fuels” will be put forward by the Commission in 2017. 

Other measures supporting the executive’s plans to move away from fossil fuels to a climate-friendly sector include road charging schemes based on the “user-pays” principle, emissions standards for cars and vans, and a revision of the taxation of heavy goods vehicles.

New legislative proposals are expected to be published throughout 2016 and 2017.

Transport and Environment, an environmental campaign group, welcomed “the Commission’s good intentions on cleaner cars and the electrification of transport”. It did, however, object to the fact that the Commission delayed the introduction of the CO2 standards for trucks and busses, saying it is a clear “concession to the lobbies”.

“And the persistent omission of aviation and shipping, the two fastest-growing sources of transport emissions in Europe, is not just bad in itself, it also sends the wrong message in the run-up to Paris,” said Jos Dings, Director of T&E.

Shifting to e-mobility

The draft Energy Union proposal makes electrification of the transport system an important requirement “to break oil dependency and to decarbonise transport”.

In January, a coalition of eight green NGOs sent a letter to 28 EU Commissioners asking “to plant the electrification of transport at the heart of the European Energy Union”. While no concrete proposal is planned on e-mobility as part of the Energy Union strategy, other transport laws could include provisions that would have a knock-on effect.  

>> Read: Greens push for e-mobility in Energy Union plans

E-mobility also received the support of the EU energy ministers at their last meeting on 6 February. Many member states already provide subsidies and tax incentives to increase sales of electric cars.

The Energy Union proposal intends to reduce energy demand, integrate EU national markets, and ensure the security of Europe’s energy supplies.

Automobile manufacturers and the public transport sector support a shift to electrification but warn that e-mobility alone will not help achieve a decarbonised transport system.

"Electrification is just one of a basket of alternative technological options that manufacturers are exploring. We need to assess what needs to be done to better support market uptake, which remains low," said the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association (ACEA). "Technological neutrality, which has enabled manufacturers to develop a wide range of electric and non-electric alternatives and has encouraged innovation, must remain a key principle," it says.

The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) said there has to be a transition to transport modes that consume less energy in addition to the electrification of public and private transport if the EU is serious about improving the overall efficiency of the transport system.

“It also needs to pay particular attention to the role of public transport and not ignore it,” said UITP.

Robert Wright, Secretary General of European Renewable Ethanol (ePURE) said: 

"Europe will not meet its target for 27% renewable energy use by 2030 unless there is specific and consistent supporting policy framework to encourage the use of sustainable biofuels, both conventional and advanced. Improving the share of renewable energy use in EU transport, which is 95% dependent on oil, must be a priority of this package."

As an energy option for vehicles, electricity offers the possibility to substitute oil with a wide diversity of primary power sources.

This could ensure the security of energy supply and a broad use of renewable and carbon-free energy sources in the transport sector, which could help the European Union reach its targets on CO2 emissions reduction. 

The Eeectrification of transport (electromobility) has been identified as a priority in the EU's research programme, Horizon 2020.

The EU is also supporting a Europe-wide electromobility initiative, Green eMotion, worth €41.8 million, in partnership with forty-two partners from industry, utilities, electric car manufacturers, municipalities, universities and technology and research institutions.

The Energy Union is part of the political response to the threat to EU gas supplies. The European Commission plans to publish a Communication at the end of February, outlining its plan to achieve a common energy market. 

  • 25 February: Commission to publish the Energy Union proposal 
  • 2016 and 2017: New legislative proposals expected to be published

European Commission

NGOs & think tanks

  • Transport & Environment: letter to the EU Commissioners on electrification of transport

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