Clean Fuels for Vehicles, Ships Get EU Regulatory Push

Clean fuels for cars, trucks and ships in the European Union would get a boost under draft legislation presented by EU regulators.

The European Commission proposed common technical standards and more filling stations for alternative vehicle fuels including electricity, natural gas and hydrogen. The proposal would also expand liquefied natural-gas facilities for ships.

The initiative is meant to help spur the development of clean fuels and lower their costs by establishing a Europe-wide market instead of fragmented national ones. It complements a series of EU laws in recent years to cut air pollution, diversify energy supplies and promote new technologies by reducing reliance on fossil fuels such as oil.

“Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, reduce our overdependence on oil, improve air quality and develop the transport industry,” European Transportation Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters today in Brussels. “We need to set targets to build the necessary fuel stations and make them compatible.”

The commission, the 27-nation EU’s regulatory arm, is addressing what it calls a “vicious circle” holding back the market for clean fuels. It says that alternative-fuel stations aren’t being built because of a lack of clean vehicles, that the vehicles are expensive because demand is inadequate and that consumers don’t buy the vehicles because they are costly and the stations don’t exist.

Natural Gas

The EU, with a passenger-car fleet of more than 200 million, has about 11,000 electric cars and around 1 million autos powered by compressed natural gas, according to the commission. The bloc, with a commercial-vehicle fleet of more than 30 million, has 50 trucks that run on liquefied natural gas, according to the commission.

In the maritime industry, Sweden plans within weeks to provide the EU’s first liquefied natural-gas facility for sea-going vessels, says the commission.

The commission projects that the total investment cost of its legislation would be 10 billion euros ($13 billion) by 2020 and that industry would foot the bill. The draft law will need the support of EU national governments and the European Parliament in a process that can take a year or longer.

The proposal would require EU governments to apply common technical standards for alternative fuels for cars, trucks and ships by 2015 and to meet minimum targets for clean-fuel facilities by 2020.

Electric Vehicles

Regarding electric vehicles, the draft legislation would establish a common standard based on a plug developed in Germany and require each EU nation to have a minimum number of recharging points.

For example Germany, with 1,937 recharging points in 2011, would need to have 150,000 of them that are publicly accessible by 2020, while Malta, with no such facilities two years ago, would need to boast 1,000 by the end of the decade, according to the commission. The U.K., with 703 in 2011, would be required to have 122,000 publicly accessible points by 2020, says the commission.

“The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices,” the commission said.

The part of the proposal on hydrogen for cars is limited to the 14 EU nations, including Germany, Italy and Denmark, that currently have filling stations for these autos. Such stations would have common standards by 2015 and would have to be in place at intervals of no more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) by 2020, according to the commission.

Fueling Outlets

With regard to compressed natural gas for cars, the draft law would require that fueling outlets be available across the EU at least every 150 kilometers by 2020, according to the commission.

On liquefied natural gas for trucks, the draft legislation would require that fueling stations be installed every 400 kilometers on roads that are part of the trans-European “core” network, says the commission. At present, the EU has 38 liquefied natural gas filling stations for trucks, it says.

With regard to liquefied natural gas for ships, fueling stations would have to be installed in 139 core EU maritime and inland ports by 2020 and 2025, respectively, according to the commission.

“These are not major gas terminals, but either fixed or mobile refueling stations,” it said. “This covers all major EU ports.”

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