The past year was a turning point for e-mobility in Europe. This statement might sound exaggerated, but the data points make us confident.
First and foremost, the demand for electric vehicles has never been higher: the market share of EV sales surpassed the 10% threshold in Europe, cementing the trend of European citizens converting to zero-emission mobility. And it is not only about the rapid roll-out of light-duty EVs. This uptake is happening across all kinds of electric vehicles for road transport. For instance, we can look at the heavy-duty vehicles market, where new players and legacy truck OEMs accelerate the switch to zero-emission.
But it is not just all about the market demand. 2022 was also a year of crucial decisions for the decarbonisation of European transport.
“Fit for 55” was published only a few months before 2022 started. As it is the policy package constituting the backbone of the European Green Deal, expectations for the year were high. It was clear this was the cornerstone of the vision and plan for the decarbonisation of Europe in the coming years, if not decades.
One of its critical objectives is the decarbonisation of transport: in this area, road transport plays a precise role as one of the primary sources of CO2 emissions.
The announcement of the package covered multiple key policy actions. Still, two policy files stood out in particular: the strengthening of the charging infrastructure of Europe through AFIR and the ban on sales of new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035.
Both these proposed policies went along the legislative path in 2022, being discussed by the European Parliament and the European Council.
On the ICE vehicles ban, In June of this year, the European Parliament and Council individually came to an agreement, followed by a final inter-institutional agreement in October. On the 27th of that month, the European Union gave the green light to ban the sales of internal combustion engine vehicles in its territory as of 2035. This achievement alone is reason to believe 2022 was a pivotal year.
It should be clear we are not talking about a purely symbolic piece of legislation. It sets out a plan to make the 100% phase-out goal a reality. There are milestones on the path: 55% CO2 emission reduction target for new cars and 50% for new vans by 2030 compared to 2021 levels. Regulatory incentives for hybrids will be phased out as of 2030, and a future standard EU methodology for assessing the entire life cycle of CO2 emissions of cars and vans will provide consumers with even more information about the environmental advantages of switching to EVs. Citizens and small and medium-sized companies will also benefit from European support along this path: EU funding is planned to transition to zero-emission vehicles and related technologies, especially towards SMEs along the automotive supply chain and vulnerable regions and communities.
While some voices have argued that this transition is happening too fast, we think it is not happening fast enough – AVERE’s vision would see the cut-off in 2030, five years earlier. Undoubtedly, however, it cannot be slowed down.
A revision is expected in 2026, but we are confident it will define ways to accelerate the decarbonisation process and not push us back into an unsustainable position of relying on polluting vehicles that contribute to making the climate crisis worse. Moreover, it would not even make sense economically: looking at the market trends, it is evident that few consumers will still want to purchase an ICE car by then and that the entire global market is shifting towards electric drivetrains.
But vehicles are only one side of the coin. Developing a vast network of infrastructure is equally important. As the European Alternative Fuels Observatory documented, the European network grows each year.
Nonetheless, the right policies can further smoothen and speed up this roll-out, which is why AVERE welcomed the proposal of turning the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive into a Regulation (AFIR) in 2021.
The legislative process of AFIR has also moved along, but it has indeed proven to be more of a subject of discussion. While the European Parliament and the European Council have adopted their internal positions, the regulation has yet to go through the entire legislative process as the institutions need to reach common ground. The debate will continue in 2023 when an agreement is expected.
The regulation covers a wide range of topics, like the deployment targets for infrastructure across the EU and the technologies used to provide a seamless and convenient charging experience, including payment methods, cybersecurity and data collection.
While the extensive range of topics renders an in-depth discussion out of the scope of this article, we can point to some specific proposed actions to show how relevant this regulation will be to the ongoing uptake of e-mobility as the technology favoured by the masses for road transport.
Member states will have to adhere to binding minimum targets for the roll-out of charging infrastructure, putting an end to users “charging anxiety” and resolving the “chicken and egg” problem between vehicles and charging infrastructure. Drivers have been kept in mind as final users of the infrastructure, with requirements facilitating ad-hoc payment without the need for specific apps or subscriptions – for example, through payment card readers.
The regulation will also make for a more agile bureaucracy and less red tape: EU’s Member States will likely have to define measures to remove possible obstacles concerning planning, permitting and procuring alternative fuels infrastructure. Case in point, under Parliament’s proposal, they will have to limit the latency between the initial application and actual deployment to no longer than six months.
The ban on ICE vehicle sales by 2035 and the AFIR are the two primary examples of how policies can help a growing market thrive, but they are not the only policies cooking.
Another one is the Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings. This directive will ultimately ensure that buildings are fit for being energetically sustainable, entailing them to be suitable for hosting charging points for electric vehicles.
The discussion on this directive is more animated, with the European Parliament still waiting to come to a conclusion and the position agreed upon within the EU Council criticised by several countries for needing to be more ambitious.
AVERE will continue to monitor the debate and push for a fast and ambitious directive responding to the needs of citizens driving electric vehicles in their daily lives.
Taking a step back, looking at the last year, 2022 was a year of exceptional progress. But the work still needs to be finished. Legislations need to move forward while the market for electric vehicles keeps growing.
2023 is an equally significant year as decisions will be taken that will shape Europe’s ability to decarbonise: policy execution and industry planning will need to align to ensure Europe becomes a global leader in electromobility.