Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Ministers to reject minimum parking spaces for electric cars

  • If there are not enough charging stations, consumers will not buy electric cars, and as long as there is not enough consumers buying electric cars, there is little incentive to install more charging stations. (Photo: Ryan Ozawa)

Energy ministers are expected to reject a proposal from the European Commission to require one in ten parking spaces to have a charging station for electric cars. The plan would apply to parking built for new buildings such as offices and shopping malls.

The ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday (26 June) to adopt the member states' position on a legislative proposal that the commission tabled last November.

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The legal text would update EU rules on saving energy in buildings.

The commission had proposed that, as of 2025, all newly built “non-residential buildings” with more than ten parking spaces should install a charging station for electric vehicles in 10 percent of the spots.

Non-residential buildings are places where “less than half of the overall useful floor area is used for housing purposes”.

The same one-in-ten-rule would apply to existing non-residential buildings that undergo a “major renovation”.

A major renovation is defined as work that costs at least 25 percent of the building's value, or if it affects more than 25 percent of the building's envelope, which includes walls, roof, doors, foundation.

Chicken and egg

The requirement should help solve the chicken-and-egg problem that is preventing a quick shift away from cars with combustion engines towards electrically-powered cars.

If there are not enough charging stations, consumers will not buy electric cars, and as long as there is not enough consumers buying electric cars, there is little incentive to install more charging stations.

A senior EU official, who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity, said that part of the proposal was “a bit of an innovative idea”, but said that member states have said they would reject it for several reasons.

“Energy efficiency is dealt with by energy ministers. If you speak about e-mobility, charging stations – it's the transport ministers. And they do not always talk to each other,” she said.

“A second argument we hear, is the cost. They say it's too expensive,” said the EU official. She added that, in the opinion of the EU commission, the estimated costs – €3,500 per charging station – were “minor” compared to the overall renovation or construction costs.

A third argument is that member states want to decide themselves on how they would increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles, instead of committing to a pan-EU target.

Malta, which is hosting the rotating six-month EU presidency until the end of the month, proposed to water down the requirement.

Instead of one-in-ten, the developers of the car park would only be required to install “at least one recharging point”.

The senior EU official said that this was “not ambitious enough”.

“A building with 200 parking places would have just one charging station,” she said.

Cost

But a second EU source, close to the Maltese presidency, said Malta “tried as much as possible to come up with a compromise which is acceptable”.

“You can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink,” he added.

“It seems what is on the table enjoys the necessary support,” the contact said, noting the “major stumbling blocks” primarily revolved around “the issue of cost, technical difficulties, administrative difficulties – especially when it comes to existing buildings”.

The Maltese did take the commission's text a bit further on laying the groundwork that could later spur an increase in charging stations.

The amended text introduced a requirement to install “ducting infrastructure, that is to say the conduits for electric cables, to enable the installation at a later stage of recharging points for electric vehicles for one in every three parking spaces”.

Lead MEP also weakened requirements

Before the new rules on energy savings in buildings can become law, it needs to be approved by the member states and by the European Parliament.

The parliament's lead member on this file, Danish centre-right MEP Bendt Bendtsen, also wants to tweak the one-in-ten parking space rule.

In his draft report, he proposed a change so that constructors of new non-residential buildings would only have to equip one in every ten parking spaces “with adequate pre-cabling or pre-tubing, in order to enable installation of a recharging point” – therefore, without fully-functioning recharging station.

Bendtsen also said that when it came to existing non-residential buildings, the rule only applied to those undergoing a major renovation that is “related to the electrical infrastructure of the building or the parking lot.” This is a narrower definition than the commission proposed.

The draft report is only an opening bid and can be amended by other MEPs.

Bendtsen declined a request to explain his amendments.

The push for energy savings in the building sector is part of implementing the EU's pledge to reduce energy use through energy efficiency by “at least 27 percent”.

This promise was made by EU leaders at an October 2014 summit, and was reaffirmed in Paris as part of the global climate agreement, which was reached there a year later.

Analysis

EU transport sector has a CO2 problem

Although car manufacturers are reaching their CO2 targets for their fleets, car usage has gone up in Germany, while the gap between lab results and actual fuel consumption has increased.

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