European Commission Announces Clean Fuel Strategy

The European Commission (EC) has laid a road map that it says will lead to a Europe with far fewer vehicle emissions. And rather than focus on development of alternative fuels, the key objective behind the package of measures centers on distribution of the clean fuels.

The EC cites issues of the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refueling stations, as barriers preventing clean fuels from being used on a wider scale.

These same issues are often blamed for what has kept the U.S. alternative fuels vehicle market from gaining even more ground than it already has.

In a release the EC says that in order to combat these roadblocks to fewer vehicle emissions, it has proposed a package of binding targets on Member States of the European Union for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels, such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said that, “developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our over dependence on oil, and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century.

Between them, China and the U.S. plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market,” said Kallas.

The commission notes that electric vehicle (EV) charge points infrastructure varies considerably across Europe. Under this proposal a minimum number of recharging points, using a common plug will be required for each member state. The EC says the goal is to put in place a critical mass of charging points, and anticipates that doing so will prompt EV makers to produce EVs in enough quantity so as to lower the cost of the cars.

A common EU-wide plug is essential for the proliferation of EVs according to the Commission, and to that end it has announced the use of the “Type 2″ plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.

Hydrogen is also part of the EC clean fuel plans. And like increasing EV charge points, the EC wants to expand hydrogen availability by linking existing filling stations to form a network with common standards in order to ensure the mobility of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Other fuel forms like liquefied natural gas (LNG), compressed natural gas (CNG), and biofuels are factored in the Commission’s agenda.

The EC says that only 38 filling stations are currently in the EU, but by 2020 it expects to have refueling stations installed every 400 kilometers along the roads of the Trans European Core Network.

One million vehicles – primarily cars – currently use CNG in Europe, representing 0.5 percent of the fleet according to the EC. The industry aims to increase this figure ten-fold by 2020. The Commission says its proposal will ensure that publically accessible refueling points, with common standards, are available Europe-wide with maximum distances of 150 kilometer between them by 2020.

Of the plans to have more EVs on European roads by 2020, the EC has goals for a number of EU members. By 2020 the EC expects Spain will lead the way with 2.5 million, the United Kingdom at 1.5 million, France at 2 million, and Germany with 1 million EVs.

These figures are roughly 10 times the number of EVs currently operating in those countries.