Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

EU to spend €800 million on alternative fuel infrastructure

  • There are not enough charging points for electric vehicles to convince consumers to overcome 'range fear' and buy electric cars (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (8 November) allocating €800 million from the EU budget to finance projects that will improve the infrastructure for cars driving on alternative fuels, like electricity.

"If we talk about electric cars, we need by 2020 somewhere around 800,000 charging points. So far we have 200,000 charging points," said European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, in charge of the Energy Union strategy.

  • 'We want to have the best, cleanest, coolest cars manufactured here in Europe' (Photo: European Commission)

"We clearly need to accelerate the roll-out of alternative infrastructure," Sefcovic told journalists in Brussels ahead of the announcement.

The commission will reallocate €800 million from two existing funds: the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the NER300 fund.

Both funds were set up during the commission leadership of Jose Manuel Barroso, and the administration under his successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, has redirected funds from CEF before.

The NER300 fund is a feature of the EU's emissions trading system, and was meant to promote carbon capture and storage projects, and innovative renewable energy projects.

Sefcovic said that he hoped the EU money will leverage additional funding from private investors – another signal that the EU is embracing the practice of using public money to leverage private funds rather than distributing grants.

Only 1.2 percent of all cars sold in the EU in the first six months of 2017 were electrically‐chargeable vehicles. The vast majority of sold cars were fuelled by petrol or diesel.

Sefcovic said that an improved infrastructure, which in the case of electric cars means more charging points, should alleviate consumers' 'range fear' – being afraid that they cannot drive too far because they might not be able to find an electric charging point.

To illustrate the point, he asked the twenty-odd journalists in the room how many of them owned an electric vehicle.

None of them did, neither did Sefcovic nor his aides – although he neglected to ask how many people in the room do not own any car.

Sefcovic said issues like 'range fear' and a need to improve infrastructure also applied to other alternative fuels like hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and liquid natural gas.

The EU top official framed the proposal as being part of Europe's global "competition", and mentioned China and India as direct competitors.

China recently adopted a quota for electric vehicles.

The EU commission will announce later on Wednesday how it will stimulate carmakers to produce more cars powered by alternative fuels, but Sefcovic did not want to reveal the details yet.

Sefcovic noted that the car was invented in Europe and "must be reinvented here too".

"We want to have the best, cleanest, coolest cars manufactured here in Europe," he added.

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