The EU's Clean Vehicles Strategy

Improving internal combustion engines and introducing ultra-low carbon technologies will be the core objectives of the new European Strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles.  The strategy, presented by Commission on 28 April 2010, sets out the actions that will be undertaken by the EU to boost the development of more energy efficient and less polluting vehicles.

A Greener Automotive Sector

The transport sector has been identified as being responsible for approximatively 25% of the EU’s CO2 emissions and for depleting air quality (particulate matter, NOx, HC and CO). Against the background of the EU’s climate and energy objectives, the Commission has set out the strategy to boost the development of less pollutant and energy efficient vehicles to redress this situation.
 
The clean vehicles strategy concentrates on promoting alternative fuels and propulsion technologies compatible with internal combustion engines, since these are likely to remain prevalent in road vehicles however the strategy also explores ways of promoting ultra-low carbon vehicles.
 
According to the Commission, promoting clean and energy efficient vehicles could make the EU world leader in alternative and low carbon transport technologies, which would confer a competitive edge in the context of a global shift towards sustainable transport. It could also create an opportunity for the car industry to attain a market leader position in the face of strong competition from Asia and America and a slow recovery from the economic crisis.

Upgrading the Regulatory Framework

To reach these targets the strategy will to create a regulatory framework for clean vehicles. The strategy builds upon the Commission’s previous initiatives on reducing CO2 emissions in cars and switching to low carbon transport technologies. The Commission will continue to implement the existing legislative framework on type-approvals, biofuels and CO2 emissions from cars. In addition it will add rules on misleading environmental claims, fuel consumption of mobile air-conditioning systems in cars, noise, CO2 emissions from road transport and test-cycle emissions measuring. 

Promoting Research and Technologies

As the production of electric and fuel cell vehicles is currently still expensive, the Commission help the financing of R&D, by making more grants available and streamlining the administrative procedures to obtain them. It will also propose a long term research strategy and make investments accessible through the European Investment Bank.

Consumers and Demand-Side Incentives

Market uptake is crucial for the strategy to work and therefore making clean vehicles accessible and affordable for consumers is key to the success of the strategy. The Commission will therefore examine consumer behavior and purchasing practices to identify the best ways to promote clean and energy efficient vehicles. It will also launch a consumer awareness campaign on low carbon transport through an electro-mobility demonstration project. On the regulatory side, the Commission will present guidelines for Member States on financial incentives to consumers that are coordinated and consistent with State Aid rules. The Commission also intends to revise the energy taxation Directive and the car labelling Directive.

Standardisation

In order to create a level-playing field on world markets for the European automotive industry, the Commission intends to play an active role in international standardisation activities and in removing tariffs and barriers to trade. The Commission will work towards regulatory convergence through cooperation with UNECE and will also look into facilitating access to raw materials.

Skills and Qualifications

Availability of appropriate skills and qualifications to switch to a low carbon transport production is crucial. Building on the Automotive Partnership agreed between the social partners, the Commission will create a network of national observatories to coordinate the retraining and up-skilling. The Commission will make full use of the European Social Fund for this purpose.

Review of CO2 emissions legislation

The Commission will reexamine the ways of reaching the target of 95g/km for passenger cars through a review of the legislation on passenger car emissions reductions by 2013 It will also set a longer term (2030) CO2 reduction target for passenger and light commercial vehicles. The objective is to a lay down a long-term strategy to provide planning certainty for industry. The Commission underlines that support mechanisms for ultra-low carbon vehicles must not however undermine emission-reductions from conventional combustion-engine vehicles.

Special Measures for Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles have specific needs compared to conventional vehicles. The Strategy therefore sets specific actions to promote their introduction on the EU market. First, the strategy sets outplans to develop common rules on safety, type-approval and noise for electric vehicles. It also sets outplans to develop standardised charging interfaces and electromagnetic compatibility as well as schemes for promoting their uptake on global markets. Electric vehicles need specific infrastructure for battery charging and refueling. The Commission will coordinate work with regional and national authorities to provide an appropriate and interconnected charging and refueling infrastructure.
 
The increased demand in electricity due to the greater use of electric vehicles could lead to higher demand in carbon-intensive power generation. This negative effect could be avoided if electric vehicles were integrated in a consistent infrastructure strategy making use of smart grids, interconnections, smart metering and consumer incentives.
 
The Commission will also assess the environmental impact of electric vehicles. The Commission will analyse and evaluate the environmental impacts through a life-cycle approach and mobilise the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) to develop initiatives for integrating electric vehicles in a global energy infrastructure strategy. Finally, the Commission will also consider necessary changes to legislation on battery recycling and reuse, as well as battery transportation to minimise the negative environmental impact of the intensive use of batteries.

An Inclusive Strategy

As the strategy involves various sectors and policy areas (automotive industry, energy grids and network connections, climate and environmental aspects, consumer issues, transport) the Commission intends to involve all relevant stakeholders and interested parties at all relevant policy levels. The Commission will also coordinate national programmes promoting electric mobility to reduce the risk of market fragmentation and to ensure coherence and legal certainty for industry and consumers.
The European Strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles has been forwarded to the Council and Parliament to be examined. The two institutions are very likely to give their views on the strategy before the summer 2010. The Commission will then begin implementing the strategy and start drafting proposals. Stakeholders and interested parties will also be invited to contribute to the initiatives.