On 29 January QED hosted a conference in Brussels on “electrifying road transport”.
Electrifying road transport is a clear goal from the European Commission and the car industry has accepted it as one possible solution. Different manufacturers have already developed cars. Yet we still see very few electric cars on the road (one participant spoke of 1 % of the European fleet). And still…the first vehicles ever to appear on our roads in 1830 were electric…Quite a paradox!
EP and EV
French MEP Sophie Auconie (EPP-ED) introduced the conference. According to her EV (electric vehicles) are a promising technology, esp. if one considers the low carbon emissions aspect. The European Parliament has always played a proactive role in the stimulation of EV. The growing development of EV could create millions of new jobs and contribute to the competitiveness of the European automobile sector. The European Union imports 50 % of the energy it uses (this will increase to 65 % in 2030). National plans for the introduction of EV are not coherent: Europe should coordinate them. Ms. Auconie told participants she would try to have some financial stimuli from the European Regional Development Fund. She was also pleased with the recent Commission proposal on the clean power for transport package.
Diversification of power sources
Laure Chapuis from European Commissioner Siim Kallas’ cabinet focused more in detail on this recent Commission initiative. Security and diversification of energy supplies must be envisaged. In its 2011 Transport White Paper the European Commission has a vision of 60 % reduction of GHG emissions by 2050. Ms Chapuis stressed that electrification does not work for all transport modes or for every single segment in each mode. Choices have to be made. She also gave an overview of the actions undertaken in the field of infrastructure.
Mr Sanjeev Kumar of E3G told participants he wants quick action. The change has to happen now! Politicians should take the lead and force car manufacturers to develop sustainable and affordable EV. We also should try to think behind the car-solution: cars are not the (only) future for sustainable urban mobility. He also welcomed the EC fuel package, but made an appeal for…MORE, please! Mr Kumar thought that hydrogen could be a good competitor for EV.
From transport problems towards liveable cities
Bruno Van Zeebrouck from Transport and Mobility Leuven asked how we could maximise the societal value of transport solutions. He stressed that more energy efficiency not automatically leads to less energy consumption. Demand will grow, so also the need for energy. Substituting conventional cars by EV will not help the congestion or parking problems in urban areas. He urged all of us to think about what could be done more: EV are good, light EV are better. Hybrid light EV could be the best solution, where hybrid means a combination of electric power and human force. After all…People in cities are growing more inactive (they don’t have regular physical exercise). Give them something to do with their energy!
Still more questions than answers?
The subsequent panel discussion debated on consumer acceptance of EV, cost of infrastructure and commercial standardization. The life cycle of batteries was also at the centre of the discussions: production and waste management of batteries could raise new ecological challenges.
EC DG Climate Action: portal on road transport actions and policies
EC DG Research: Green Cars initiative
For e-bikes, no easy ride in tough times (Euractiv)
EP Library briefing: Electric Cars: EU initiatives and actions
Studies: Impact of Electric Vehicles and Assessment of electric vehicle and battery technology / CE Delft (2011)