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European Strategy on Clean and Energy-efficient vehicles

par Gabriel PLASSAT

On 11 March 2010, the Commission organized a public hearing on the European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles. By means of this public hearing, the Commission seeked to engage the stakeholders in a stock-taking with respect to clean and energy efficient vehicles and an assessment of future scenarios in terms of technology and market development including the role of the Commission with respect to these developments.

The contributions received through this hearing as well as in writing will play an important role in the drafting of a Commission’s Communication. This Communication will be followed by the concrete actions of the Commission.

Presentations made at the public hearing

ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) 

CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers)

EHA (European Hydrogen Association)

eBIO (European Bioethanol Fuel Association)


Going-Electric (European Association for Battery Electric Vehicles)

EUROBAT (European Automotive and Industrial Battery Association)

Better Place Denmark

Transport & Environment

EUCAR (European Council for Automotive R&D

FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations) 

The orientation that the Commission wants to propose for the automotive industry will be a concrete proposal for anew industrial policy linked to clean technologies that will contribute to the strategic perspective of EU2020 that is currently being elaborated. President Barroso has already identified clean vehicle technologies as new sources of economic growth and cohesion for Europe.

This European strategy for clean and energy-efficient vehicles will be composed of two pillars:

I. PILLAR: Promotion of technologically advanced, clean and fuel efficient vehicles based on the internal combustion engine, while ensuring that all available measures are taken to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. The role of bio-fuels and gaseous fuels is also considered here.

II. PILLAR: Promoting and facilitating the market uptake of alternative vehicle propulsion technologies, which is expected to lead to a step change in mobility. The main focus of this pillar will be on fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, reflecting the building momentum behind this technology both in national support programmes and industrial plans.

The two pillar structure clearly reflects the medium- and long-term vision presented in the CARS 21 mid-term review that stipulated:

“Stakeholders expect that the internal combustion engine will remain the primary power train in 2020 perspective. In parallel, an increasingly important role will be played by hybrid technology […], the increased use of biofuels […] as well as Compressed Natural Gas and Liquefied Petroleum Gas. For the medium and longer term, stakeholders agree that electric battery-powered vehicles (incl. hybrids and plug-in hybrids) and hydrogen-powered vehicles are currently the most promising options.”

“For the long term, all actors in the integrated approach should take steps to enable road

transport in Europe to be largely decarbonised by 2050”.

Much has been achieved within the Commu
nity strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from light duty vehicles
4. Yet, possible improvements in the efficiency of the conventional engine and all other relevant vehicle aspects remain the main target for reduced CO2 emissions in the 2020 perspective. With that timeline, the internal combustion engine (ICE) will remain the predominant propulsion technology and with its improved efficiency, it will make a major contribution to transport decarbonisation.

Whereas energy-efficient conventional engines will remain at the heart of European mobility, much of the recent academic, market and policy research concludes that fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids and, in longer term, also hydrogen based technologies (comprising both fuel cell and ICE hydrogen) are no longer at a pre-competitive stage of development and that they will play a big role in the mobility of tomorrow. Currently a visible momentum is building behind electro-mobility, with the EU's global partners (China, the US, Japan, Australia and Israel) and several EU Member States investing heavily in research, development of capacity and market stimulation.

The European Union has already advanced in its work on electric (both fully electric and hybrids) vehicles’ type-approval requirements and standards. Taking into account the current impetus behind the electric cars and the growing market responsiveness and consumer awareness of the technological developments, the Commission now intends to develop a dedicated policy that will remove the remaining obstacles to the internal market for electric vehicles, refocus the use of existing European instruments and propose guidelines for national, demand-side measures to achieve greater market uptake. The Commission is keen to realise the benefits of new propulsion technologies in terms of environmental and energy policy goals, avoiding a situation where advances in new technologies would be neutralised by reduced improvements in conventional vehicles. This approach is by no means one of “picking a winner”, as the Commission is committed to safeguarding the technology neutrality principle. It is however, clearly the case that if we want alternative propulsion vehicles to quickly reach the market, more has to be done (e.g. in terms of infrastructure, consumer information, market incentives) than type-approval requirements. This special focus on alternative powertrains is thus warranted by the necessity and urgency for public authorities to act.

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