Parliament votes to harmonise electric cars in Europe

Mia electric town car. France, 2013. [mwanasimba/Flickr]

The European Parliament is set to approve new EU laws aimed at setting up infrastructure for alternative fuels in the EU, a move aimed at boosting electric vehicles and reducing Europe’s dependence on imported oil, MEPs said ahead of the plenary vote, which takes place today (15 April). EURACTIV reports from Strasbourg.

Although the European Commission and many MEPs had hoped for a “more ambitious agreement”, the current text is seen as an important step forward, the EU commissioner in charge of transport, Siim Kallas, said from Strasbourg.

The text, agreed late last March between Parliament and the Council of Ministers representing the EU’s 28 member countries, requires EU national governments to put in place recharging stations for electric vehicles by 2020, but also fuel stations for cars driving on compressed natural gas.

Although “less ambitious” on that point, the draft law also pushes national governments to develop the necessary fuel tanks for maritime vessels that will ensure they can travel between ports on liquefied natural gas.

Breaking the ‘vicious circle’

European lawmakers welcomed the fact that the legislation would help end the “chicken and egg” situation on the use of electric cars in the EU.

After several failed attempts, the plugs on electric cars are finally set to be harmonised at EU level, removing an important barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles by consumers who feared they would be unable to recharge their cars after they cross the border.

Recharging stations will also need to be multiplied across Europe, in order to ensure security of supply for the consumer. The EU commissioner said he believed that the harmonisation of technical standards “will mean huge benefits” and that “costs would be reduced through economies of scale.”

The standardisation of plugs is the main reason why the Greens and Socialist groups have decided to support the proposal despite their “disappointment” with what they saw as a failure to “make a reference to renewable energies”, or tie the text to greenhouse gas emissions.

“The lack of infrastructure left us in a vicious circle – no recharging, no use of clean vehicles,” said Inés Ayala Sender, the the Spanish Socialist MEP, who was a shadow rapporteur on the proposal. Despite “different approaches on technicalities on plugs,” Ayala Sender welcomed the proposal and called for “one single recharging point to be brought to the markets”.

The European transport sector is 94 % dependent on oil, with 84 % of it being imported. The bill amounts to up to €1 billion per day, without counting the environmental or health costs of fossil fuels.

Research and technological development have led to successful demonstrations of alternative fuel solutions for all transport modes. Market take-up, however, requires additional policy action, especially for electric vehicles.

  • 15 April: Plenary vote on the alternative fuel infrastructure directive

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