2017: A year of opportunities for advancing electric transport in Europe

Publish date: January 16, 2017

A rapid shift towards electric mobility across all transport modes is key to deliver on all Energy Union long-term objectives, namely: supply security, a fully integrated energy market, improved energy efficiency, emission reduction and advancing research and innovation. Reversely, the roll-out of the Energy Union Strategy will be crucial for deploying electro-mobility’s full potential with a series of important legislative milestones expected in the coming months. Below we take a look at what 2017 promises, in terms of EU legislative opportunities, for advancing electric mobility in Europe.

Over the past two years overwhelming evidence has piled up exposing the transport sector’s tremendous impact on human health through local air pollution. According to latest findings by the EEA predominantly transport-induced poor air quality remains the single largest environmental health hazard on the continent, resulting in a lower quality of life due to illnesses and an estimated of 467 000 premature deaths per year.

Moreover, transport currently accounts for 34% and a growing share of planet warmig-CO2 emissions from all sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading system (ETS). Tackling transport emissions is therefore key to meeting the EU’s overall decarbonisation objectives. This in turn would require the EU transport sector to undergo an immediate and systematic change. According to Bellona this should be in the form of a major shift across all transport modes to alternative fuels, in particular sustainable electricity.

A big year for EV charging infrastructure

2017 is set to be a promising year for transitioning towards a clean and sustainable transport system. More concretely, this year offers hope of accelerating the rollout of an EU-wide interoperable recharging infrastructure, which remains an important pre-condition for the electric vehicle (EV) market to take off. EU Member States are currently preparing their national plans for the implementation of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (AFI) Directive.

The AFI Directive aims to address consumer anxieties with regards to EV range and charging compatibility by mandating the build-up of sufficient number of publically accessible charging points and setting common EU standards for their charging connectors. Bellona has lead work on this topic within the Platform for Electro-Mobility, which recently published a paper with comprehensive recommendations for the directive’s implementation.

The currently ongoing revision of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive on the other hand offers an important opportunity to advance the rollout of charging infrastructure in the private domain. Bellona strongly supports the inclusion of measures in the revised EPBD to mandate the deployment of charge points in buildings.

Normal power charging, from 3.7 to 22 kW, accounts for roughly 90% of the energy charged by an EV, in the form of overnight charging or at the workplace. As such, it meets the majority of EV charging needs while also offering the greatest potential for EV smart charging – which in turn allows us to reap EVs’ full potential. Read more on Bellona’s position on the Commission’s proposal for the new EPBD and what it means for electro-mobility here.

Working towards an EU Energy Union, with e-mobility at the core

Late last year, the Commission presented its Clean Energy Package consisting of over 17 legislative and policy proposals. The package will serve as a base for the Union’s energy and climate policies until 2030 and as such consists of the last remaining initiatives for the roll-out of the Energy Union Strategy.

In the course of the next months, the EU’s ‘co-legislators’, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union representing the Member States, will be entering into negotiations on these legislative files with a view to reaching a consensus.

Of particular importance to electric mobility will be the revision of the Effort Sharing Regulation (dealing with emissions in sectors outside the EU ETS, such as transport and buildings), the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive, and the Electricity Market Regulation, among others.

Smart charging technologies are key to making EVs a valuable asset in the electricity value chain while reducing the costs of charging to EV owners. Reaping EVs’ full potential by enabling smart charging, however, requires a number of regulatory barriers to be addressed. The reform of the Electricity Market Design as well as of the Renewable Energy Directive offer crucial opportunities to create the enabling environment for this.

Stimulating supply and demand for zero emission vehicles

What is more, the Commission is currently in the process of revising its Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD), which regulates green public procurement (GPP) and thus serves as one of the EU’s main instruments for promoting clean and energy-efficient vehicles. World-wide 557,000 cities and communities spend roughly €4 trillion per year; the equivalent of 10% of global GDP’. GPP policies can act as a unique tool to build trust in EVs and stimulate demand for the technology.

Unfortunately however, this hasn’t been the case for the CVD, which has had a limited impact on the uptake of zero emission, electric vehicles. The Commission is currently conducting a public consultation, to which Bellona will be submitting a response, and which will feed into a new legislative proposal for a revised directive.

Last but not least, CO2 emission performance standards for new light duty vehicles (cars and vans) are currently also being revised, and the Commission is expected to unveil new proposals in the third quarter of 2017. Their revision offers the opportunity of putting in place more stringent fuel economy standards, based on the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) but also introducing specific targets requiring car makers to produce and sell a minimum share of zero emission vehicles and thus stimulate their wider deployment. See Bellona’s recommendations for the revised legislation here.

Electro-mobility directly contributes to the achievement of each of the five pillars of the Energy Union: 1) it increases our energy security; 2) it offers new solutions to deepen the achievement of the internal energy market by better linking the electricity and transport sectors; 3) it helps better use our energy; 4) it is a major driver of decarbonisation; and 5) it pushes innovation forward.

The legislative proposals in the coming months offer a key opportunity to ensure that Europe can fully grasp these multiple benefits. Going forward it will be important to draw lessons from the Dieselgate scandal which has shown the conventional car industry’s heavy influence on the EU decision making arena – reflected in repeated delays and watering down of the revision of the EU’s outdated emission testing regime. This calls for strong civil society engagement to monitor and balance vested interests.

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