On the 28th of March 2023, the Council and the European Parliament reached a preliminary agreement on a proposal that seeks to support road and maritime transport decarbonisation through the deployment of recharging and refuelling stations for alternative fuels across Europe.
The objective of the AFIR is to ensure that alternative fuel infrastructure for road and maritime transport is sufficiently available, and interoperable, across the continent.
TLDR: the AFIR in short.
The deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR) mandates the deployment of electric recharging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure for the road sector, onshore electricity supply in maritime and inland waterway ports, and stationary aircraft electricity supply. The deployment targets aim to ensure a minimum availability of recharging and refueling infrastructure across the EU, addressing consumer concerns about difficulties in accessing these services. In addition to addressing availability concerns, AFIR is designed to offer a user-friendly recharging and refueling experience with coherent customer information, full price transparency, and common minimum payment options across the EU.
Is it law yet?
No. The provisional agreement will undergo further approval processes, including final approval by the Council (Coreper) and the European Parliament.
From Commission to Parliament & Council; what’s changed?
The provisional agreement maintains the fundamental elements and approach of the Commission’s proposal, including:
- The power capacity needed to recharge light electric vehicles will be based on the size of the registered fleet and the trans-European network-transport (TEN-T) coverage requirements in 2025 and 2030.
- Electric heavy-duty vehicles and hydrogen refuelling will require TEN-T coverage by 2030, with coverage for electric heavy-duty vehicles beginning in 2025.
- Requirements for the supply of electricity to ships at the quayside in ports will apply from 2030.
The provisional agreement also saw amendments to the Commission’s initial proposal by the European Parliament and Council, which include:
- A gradual infrastructure deployment process for electric heavy-duty vehicles will begin in 2025 and aim to cover all TEN-T roads by 2030, considering the less developed market dynamics compared to light vehicles.
- The focus of hydrogen refueling infrastructure deployment requirements will be on gaseous hydrogen and placed primarily in urban nodes and multimodal hubs to maximize efficiency and adapt to technological advancements.
- The total power of electric recharging pools and the maximum distance between them for road sections with low traffic has been adapted to ensure compatibility with different circumstances on the ground and proportionate investments to needs.
- To make electric recharging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure user-friendly and avoid disproportionate investment, the proposal offers various payment and price display options, particularly for existing infrastructure.
- On-shore power supply provisions in maritime ports are now consistent with the recently agreed FuelEU maritime proposal.
- The proposal specifies the obligations of each stakeholder, provides progress tracking, ensures user information, and establishes common standards and technical specifications for the industry.
- The provisional agreement includes a clause for a specific review in the short term to account for significant technological and market developments affecting heavy-duty vehicles, while the entire regulation will be reviewed in the medium term.
Below is a collection of reactions to the AFIR provisional agreement. Noteworthy statements have been presented in bold.
Political Actors –
Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister for infrastructure and housing – “The agreement will send a clear signal to citizens and other stakeholders that user-friendly recharging infrastructure and refuelling stations for alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, will be installed throughout the EU. This means that more public recharging capacity will be available on the streets in urban areas as well along the motorways. Citizens will no longer have a reason to feel anxious about finding charging and refuelling stations to their electric or fuel-cell car.”
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal – “The transition to zero-emission mobility has to be supported by the right infrastructure, ready for you when you need it, where you need it. Electric or otherwise, we want every driver in Europe to be certain that they can travel in confidence throughout the continent. With this agreement we ensure that there are sufficient and user-friendly options available throughout Europe, for both cars, and heavy-duty vehicles.”
Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport – “Today’s agreement takes us a step further on the pathway to decarbonising mobility in Europe. It will ensure that citizens and transport and logistics companies alike can rely on a strong network for charging and refuelling infrastructure on our roads, and in our ports and airports, across the European Union. In many of these technologies, Europe has the technological leadership, and such investments will further help us create jobs in Europe.”
Ismail Ertug MEP, European Parliament, S&D – “The new rules will help to roll out the infrastructure for alternative fuels without further delay and ensure that driving and charging a new generation car is as simple and convenient as one that depends on petrol.”
Jens Gieseke MEP, European Parliament, EPP Group – “[The] deal finally gives us clear and legally-binding targets for infrastructure development throughout Europe. This is what has been lacking so far. In the future, a lack of refuelling stations or charging stations must no longer be a reason for not travelling. If these goals are implemented as planned, the fear of not reaching the destination will no longer play a role. For this, we have pushed through significantly higher targets. 30% more power output per registered electric car: that is something to be proud of and a great success for the Parliament.
ACEA Director General, Sigrid de Vries – “Already today, a lack of charging and refuelling stations is severely hampering the market uptake of zero-emission vehicles. AFIR therefore has a crucial role to play as we make the shift to carbon-neutral transport. A significant ‘infrastructure gap’ will continue to limit CO2 reductions and the transition of our sector to climate neutrality.”
IRU EU Advocacy Director Raluca Marian – “The 15% target for electric charging infrastructure in 2025 means an incomplete coverage, which will not serve its purpose. What we can conclude is that the legislators are committed to supporting the material electrification of the EU’s HDV fleet from 2030. Then we can talk about the possibility of a serious uptake of electric vehicles, particularly for medium- and long-haul operations. An additional complication is that the charging infrastructure is useless without enough power to ensure continuous operations. Unfortunately, the electricity grid component of the equation is not solved in the AFIR.”
Darko Levicar, Director of Mobility at Hydrogen Europe – “We are happy to see a timely conclusion on this piece of legislation, 21 months after the proposal was tabled, despite it falling short of what we believe are the minimal industry needs. European member states must establish a dense network of hydrogen refuelling and battery recharging infrastructure, and we believe that by the foreseen AFIR revision in 2026 there will be enough hydrogen cars, vans, buses and trucks on the roads to justify an increase in targets.”
ECTA Spokesperson, Kristin Kahl – “Road transport operators are ready to transition all their operations to zero-emission – even long-distance trucking. The AFIR is an elementary law to remove the operational hurdle and can ensure that zero-emission trucks are able to transport goods emission-free from one Member State to another seamlessly. After 2030 it should be evaluated whether additional infrastructure is needed once zero-emission truck numbers are deployed in large numbers.”