Alternative Transport Fuels

Alternative transport fuel use is growing too slowly in the European Commission’s opinion, with the lack of necessary infrastructure largely to blame. With a new policy package presented last week, the Commission aims to speed up the creation of this infrastructure.

The package consists of two strategy papers plus a legislative proposal, and is focused on promoting the construction of necessary refuelling stations across Europe.

Known as the “Clean Power for Transport Package”, it consists of a Communication setting out a European strategy on alternative fuels, a proposal for a Directive focusing on infrastructure and standards, and a plan for the development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in shipping.

The strategy was developed in line with the Commissions wider strategic objectives outlined under its EU 2020 Strategy, the Flagship Initiative on Resource Efficiency and the Transport White Paper.

This Article will take an in-depth examination of the Commission’s proposal for a Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.

Background

The Commission has determined that the use of alternative fuels has remained low due to three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations.

The three form a vicious circle: Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. And there’s low consumer demand for the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there.

The importance of infrastructure for alternative fuels has been recognised by a large number of Member States, regional and local authorities. However, initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been uncoordinated and insufficient.

Scope of the proposal

The Directive sets out a common framework of measures for alternative fuels infrastructure in the EU.

Alternative fuels listed in the Directive include: 
• electricity; 
• hydrogen;
• biofuels (as defined in Directive 2009/28/EC);
• synthetic fuels;
• natural gas, including bio-methane, in gaseous form (Compressed Natural Gas – CNG) and liquefied form (Liquefied Natural Gas - LNG), and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

National Policy Frameworks

Member States would be required to adopt a national policy framework for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure. These national frameworks would have to contain:
• assessment of the state and future development of alternative fuels;
• assessment of the trans-border continuity of the infrastructure coverage for alternative fuels;
• the regulatory framework to support the build-up of alternative fuels infrastructure;
• policy measures to support the implementation of the national policy framework;
• deployment and manufacturing support measures;
• research, technological development and demonstration support;
• targets for the deployment of alternative fuels;
• number of alternative fuel vehicles expected by 2020;
• assessment of the need for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) refuelling points in ports outside the TEN-T core network that are important for vessels not engaged in transport operations, in particular fishing vessels;
• where appropriate, cooperation arrangements with other Member States

Only the fuels included in the national policy frameworks would be eligible for EU and national support measures for alternative fuels infrastructure which would be implemented in compliance with the EU State aid rules.

The national frameworks would have to be notified to the Commission within 18 months from the date of entry into force of the Directive. The Commission would evaluate the national policy frameworks and ensure that they would be coherent at EU level. The Commission would report on the evaluation on the national policy frameworks to the European Parliament within one year from the reception of the national policy frameworks.

The Commission proposal a requires binding targets on Member States 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.

Electricity Supply for Transport

Each Member States would be required to ensure that a minimum number of recharging points for electric vehicles are set up by 31 December 2020. The minimum number of recharging points varies between the Member States and this is provided in Annex II to the Directive. At least 10% of the recharging points would be required to be publicly accessible.

Member States would have to ensure that the equipment for slow and fast recharging points would be available on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. All publicly accessible recharging points for electric vehicles would be required to be equipped with intelligent metering systems (following the requirements under Directive 2012/27/EU)

Electric vehicle users would be allowed to buy electricity from any electricity supplier regardless of the Member State in which the supplier is registered. Consumers would be given the right to contract electricity simultaneously with several suppliers so that electricity supply for an electric vehicle could be contracted separately.

It would also allow anyone to set up or operate publicly accessible recharging points and require distribution system operators to cooperate with them on a non-discriminatory basis.

Member States would also have to ensure that prices charged at publicly accessible recharging points were  reasonable and did not include any penalty or prohibitive fees for recharging an electric vehicle by the user not having contractual relations with the operator of the recharging point.

Shore side electricity supply for waterborne vessels would also be required to be installed in ports on the condition that that it is cost-effective and has environmental benefits. The technical specifications for this would have to be met by 31 December 2015.

The technical specifications for both slow and fast recharging points are included in Annex III to the proposal, setting out the EN or ISO/TS standard to be complied with. Compliance with these standards would be required by 31 December 2015 and 31 December 2017 respectively.

Hydrogen Supply for Transport

Member States which have hydrogen refuelling points on their territories when the Directive enters into force would be required to ensure that a sufficient number of publicly accessible refuelling points are available, within distances not exceeding 300 km, with the aim of allow the circulation of hydrogen vehicles within the entire national territory by 31 December 2020.

The technical specifications for the recharging points are included in Annex III to the proposal, setting out the EN or ISO/TS standard to be complied with. Compliance with these standards would be required by 2015. Technical standards would be updated by the Commission through delegated acts.

Natural Gas Supply for Transport

Member States would be required to ensure that publicly accessible Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) refuelling points for maritime and inland waterway transport are provided in all maritime ports of the Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Core Network by 31 December 2020.

Member States would also be required to cooperate to ensure that heavy duty motor vehicles running on LNG would be able to travel all along the roads on the TEN-T Core Network. This would require publicly accessible refuelling points for LNG to be set up within distances not exceeding 400 km by 31 December 2020.

Member States would be required to ensure that a sufficient number of publicly accessible refuelling points are made available, with maximum distances of 150 km, to allow the circulation of CNG vehicles EU-wide by 31 December 2020.

Member States would also have to ensure that publicly accessible LNG refuelling points for inland waterway transport are provided in all inland ports of the TEN-T Core Network, by 31 December 2025.

The technical specifications for the recharging points are included in Annex III to the proposal, setting out the EN or ISO/TS standard to be complied with. Compliance with these standards would be required by 2015.

Technical standards would be updated by the Commission through delegated acts. However, implementing acts would be to update safety regulations with respect to storage, transport and refuelling process of LNG and the technical specifications for interoperability between ships and boats and refuelling points for LNG in maritime and inland waterway transport.

Consumer Information for Transport Fuels

Member States would be required to provide relevant, clear and simple information on the compatibility between all fuels on the market and vehicles:
• at the pumps in all refuelling points, at vehicle dealerships and at technical control facilities in their territory;
• in vehicle manuals;
• on the vehicle.

The last requirement would only apply new vehicles sold on the territory of the Member States following the transposition of the Directive and for all other vehicles registered on the territory of the Member States from the date of the first technical control of the vehicles following the transposition of the Directive).

Reporting and Review and Entry into Force

Each Member State would be required to report to the Commission on the national policy framework every 2 years (starting 2 years after the entry into force of the Directive). Based on this report the Commission would be required to submit a report on the application of this Directive to the European Parliament and the Council every two years (starting 2 years after the entry into force of the Directive).

The Commission report shall contain the following elements:
• the assessment of the actions taken by each Member State;
• the assessment of the effects of this Directive on the market development of alternative fuels and the impact on economy and environment;
• information on technical progress and market development of the alternative fuels covered by this Directive and of any other alternative fuel.

The Commission report could be accompanied if appropriate by a legislative proposal to revise the requirements. The proposed Directive would need to be transposed into national legal systems 18 months after its entry into force.

Annexes to the Proposal

The proposal has three Annexes setting out detailed rules on the following: 
• Annex I - National Policy Frameworks: This sets out the minimum requirements for the content of National policy frameworks (outlined above in this Article)
• Annex II - Minimum number of recharging points in each Member State: This Annex sets out a table with the minimum number of recharging points that need to be constructed in each Member State and the number that need to be made publicly available.
• Annex III – Technical specifications: This Annex lists the EN and ISO/TS standards that need to be complied with for natural gas supply for transport, hydrogen supply for transport and electricity supply for transport