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European Strategy for low-emission mobility stresses digital tech, electrification and ZEVs

Earlier this week, the European Commission published a strategy for low-emission mobility, which sets out guiding principles to Member States to prepare for the future. EU legislation currently refers to low-emission vehicles as vehicles having tailpipe emissions below 50 g/km. This would include some plug-in hybrids, full electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The latter two examples also represent zero-emission vehicles.

The low-emission mobility strategy will frame the initiatives that the Commission is planning in the coming years, and it maps the areas in which it is exploring options. It also shows how initiatives in related fields are linked and how synergies can be achieved. In parallel to this strategy, the Commission is launching public consultations on the approach towards reducing emissions from road transport: cars and vans as well as trucks, buses and coaches.

The main elements of the strategy include:

  • Increasing the efficiency of the transport system by making the most of digital technologies, smart pricing and further encouraging the shift to lower emission transport modes.

  • Speeding up the deployment of low-emission alternative energy for transport, such as advanced biofuels, renewable electricity and renewable synthetic fuels and removing obstacles to the electrification of transport.

  • Moving towards zero-emission vehicles. While further improvements to the internal combustion engine will be needed, Europe needs to accelerate the transition towards low- and zero-emission vehicles.

Digital technologies. Digital technologies, especially Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS), have a huge potential to improve road safety as well as the efficiency and attractiveness of transport. The Commission is preparing a Plan to stimulate the use of such technologies, in particular communication links between vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure.

The Commission is also working on improving road charging, to make it fairer and more efficient and better reflect the polluter-pays and user-pays principles. This includes common standards for a distance-based charging system in the EU. The Commission will also take further measures to promote links between different modes of transport, helping to create seamless logistics chains.

Promoting the use of low-emission energy in transport.Transport in the EU still depends on oil for about 94% of its energy needs. Through the Strategy, the Commission is looking into how to accelerate the use of low-emission alternative energy, such as advanced biofuels, electricity, hydrogen and renewable synthetic fuels by providing strong incentives to innovate.

With such policy measures the share of low-emission energy could increase, providing about 15-17% of transport energy demand in 2030 and replacing oil products.

The Commission is also looking into better synergies between the energy and transport systems, for example addressing distribution challenges of electricity at peak times. This would make charging of electric vehicles easier.

In accordance with Directive on alternative fuel infrastructure, Member States are required to implement common standards, including a common plug for electric vehicles, and roll out infrastructure for alternative fuels.

In co-operation with Member States and the European Standardization Organisations, the work on better interoperability and standardisation in particular for electro-mobility continues. In addition, the Commission will develop a methodology for easy price comparison of electricity and other conventional and alternative fuels.

Zero-emission vehicles. The Commission has proposed and already implemented some important improvements on how vehicle emissions are measured and verified. This is a necessary precondition to ensure that standards have an impact and that consumers can trust them.

The Commission is working on post-2020 standards for cars and vans. Emissions from conventional combustion engines will need to be further reduced after 2020. Zero- and low-emission vehicles will need to be deployed and gain significant market share. Their deployment will significantly improve air quality in particular in cities. Together with this Strategy, the Commission is launching a public consultation to revise the current legislative framework for post-2020 standards for cars and vans.

To support demand by users, the Commission is working on improving customer information, for example by reviewing the Car Labeling Directive, and on incentives in public procurement rules, in the context of a revision of the Clean Vehicles Directive—a powerful tool to support deployment for example of zero-emission city buses.

Trucks, coaches and buses. The Commission will accelerate work to curb carbon dioxide emissions from trucks, buses and coaches. They currently represent around a quarter of road transport carbon dioxide emissions and their share is set to grow.

While trucks, buses and coaches have been subject to similar air pollution standards as cars and vans, and are now required to meet them under real driving conditions, the EU has neither fuel efficiency standards for them, nor system to monitor their carbon dioxide emissions. Other parts of the world, such as the US, China, Japan and Canada, have already introduced standards, and some European manufacturers participate in these schemes. Together with this Strategy, the Commission is launching a public consultation which primarily focuses on monitoring and reporting of emissions, but also seeks first feedback on standards.

Action at global level. The EU is committed to reaching an agreement to address international aviation emissions through a global market-based mechanism. This and other measures, such as the recently agreed international carbon dioxide standard for new aircraft, are intended to ensure the carbon neutral growth of international aviation from 2020.

The EU will review its own domestic measure (the aviation element of the EU Emission Trading System) in the light of the outcome of the International Civil Aviation Organization's General Assembly meeting this autumn.

The EU is also committed to securing a mandatory global agreement for the collection and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. This needs to be complemented by an international agreement on an emissions reduction objective for the shipping sector. The EU already has legislation in place that requires ships using EU ports to monitor, report and verify their emissions from 2018. In the event of an international agreement, the EU may align this legislation to a global system.

Delivery. The EC said that cities and local authorities are crucial for the delivery of this strategy. They are already implementing incentives for low-emission alternative energies and vehicles, encouraging modal shift to active travel (cycling and walking), public transport and/or shared mobility schemes, such as bike, car-sharing and car-pooling, to reduce congestion and pollution.

The strategy integrates a broader set of measures to support Europe’s transition to low-carbon economy. It identifies key priorities—for example, in research and innovation in low-emission mobility solutions, providing clarity for future investment decisions.

The strategy draws on existing mechanisms and funds.



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