The European Commission published its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy on 9 December.
It considers two critical transport trends: the need for decarbonisation and the need for connected mobility. The overarching principle of Europe’s future mobility establishes a link to the ambitious goal of reducing the sector’s 2050 emissions by 90% compared to its 1990 level. Overall, the Strategy proposes action for the maritime, rail and aviation sector together with 82 initiatives that will guide the Commission’s work until the end of the mandate in 2024. This insight focuses on the key aspects relevant to road transport.
The Commission aims at building 500 hydrogen refuelling stations and one million electric charging stations by 2025.
Until now, a significant drawback that slowed down the deployment of Zero- and Low-Emission Vehicles, (ZLEVs – between 0 and 50g CO2/km), was the inconsistent charging infrastructure. An ACEA report shows that in 2019, only four EU countries accounted for 76% of all charging stations, proving the patchy deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure in the EU. The lack of infrastructure across the EU Member States contributed to the consumers’ lukewarm embrace of ZLEVs and contributed to the range anxiety phenomenon. The Commission aims at building 500 hydrogen refuelling stations and one million electric charging stations by 2025. These stations would increase to 1000 for hydrogen and 3 million for electric charging by 2030. The revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) in 2021 would be a vital instrument, should it manage to ensure that the Member States have mandatory targets for the deployment of charging and refuelling stations in their territories.
The lack of infrastructure across the EU Member States contributed to the consumers’ lukewarm embrace of ZLEVs and contributed to the range anxiety phenomenon.
In the past month, the Commission already announced that it would revise the Regulation setting CO2 emission standards for cars and vans (that had entered into force in 2019) in 2021. The revision is yet another indicator of the Commission’s determination to reach its climate goals. Furthermore, more stringent air pollutant emissions standards for combustion engine vehicles under Euro 7 will be proposed in late 2021. The aim is to ensure that only future-proof new vehicles will travel on European roads.
With the Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, the Commission envisages reaching a total of at least 30 million ZLEVs and 80,000 zero-emission lorries on the EU’s roads by 2030. The size of this commitment is to be compared to a recent announcement made by Germany, the most significant vehicle market in Europe. The Federal Government has set the target of reaching a mere 1 million EVs by 2030! According to the Strategy, by 2050, almost all cars, vans and heavy-duty vehicles are going to be emission-free.
[…] the Commission will also explore incentives to boost the uptake of ZLEVs.
Besides deployment of charging infrastructure, the Commission will also explore incentives to boost the uptake of ZLEVs. For example, the Commission is considering the inclusion of the transport sector in the European Emission Trading System (ETS).
While the revision of the Eurovignette Directive seems to approach its final stage, road infrastructure charging based on the vehicles’ emissions (via the so-called polluter-pays principle) is another option to internalise these externalities. In such a way, the Commission would make sure that the determination of the charge to use a road infrastructure is determined by the vehicle’s emissions and the distance it travels. C
Regarding fuel technology, neutrality is the key. Yet, according to the Commission, electricity and hydrogen have the most promising prospects. To decarbonise vehicles that are already on the road, the EU will explore the benefits of retrofitting in 2021. In parallel, programmes such as scrappage schemes could become an option to boost the needed fleet renewal.
The Commission identified the need to seize the possibilities created by digital solutions and intelligent transport systems, as connected and automated systems offer an enormous potential to contribute to sustainability and safety goals. EU action regarding the current lack of harmonisation of traffic and liability rules for automated vehicles are essential steps in this process. Moreover, the deployment of 5G networks across the major transport corridors requires increased attention and efforts, as 5G is needed to enable this higher level and performance of the digital infrastructure. To boost connected mobility, the EU will revise the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive and complete the legal framework on the approval of automated vehicles in 2021. Moreover, the Artificial Intelligence roadmap for mobility in 2021 will support testing and experimentation facilities on AI for smart mobility.
The Commission’s Strategy offers a comprehensive set of measures across all transport modes. It takes the lessons learnt from the COVID pandemic, as well as the latest mobility trends into account.
Some initiatives included in the action plan are no surprise, as they are part of the previously published 2021 Commission Work Programme, while the European Green Deal Communication hinted at some of them. However, the Commission went beyond legally required revisions and established a strong link between sustainability and connectivity.
We can expect an exciting and momentous 2021. It will be necessary for the Council and the European Parliament to prove their abilities to find a compromise on this vast series of proposals likely to reshape the transport domain substantially. In any case, the decarbonisation must happen in a balanced way. Measures to support the transition towards greener mobility of the 10 million people directly employed in the EU transport sector must be part of the equation. A clear commitment from the Member States to building a robust refuelling and recharging infrastructure is essential, and the 2021 AFID revision will have the task of enshrining it.