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EU strategy on track for clean vehicles



The European Commission has proposed a new strategy to address the EU’s fossil-fuel dependency, accelerate development of clean automotive technologies and promote mass-market uptake.

Announced in April 2010, the strategy builds on the European Green Cars Initiative – one of three private-public partnerships in the EU Recovery Package – to increase sustainable mobility options. It is intended to enhance the sustainability and global competitiveness of European carmakers while meeting consumer demands for more environment-friendly vehicles.

The internal combustion engine is likely to remain dominant in the short and medium term. However, the Commission believes alternative fuels and propulsion technologies will be increasingly important. Green vehicles, including those using electricity, hydrogen, biogas and liquid biofuels, should contribute significantly to the Europe 2020 priorities for smart and sustainable growth.

Some 14 million cars were produced in the EU in 2009 – around 30% of global output. The EU imports 2.2 million cars a year and exports 3.4 million. While total vehicle production in Europe was 17.3% less in 2009 than in 2008, one sector still growing is low-emission vehicles – those emitting less than 120 g of CO2 /km. Demand reached 3.2 million units, a quarter of the market and involving all carmakers as they work to meet tough EU legislation on fuel efficiency through co-operative research. Similar legislation has been introduced in Japan and South Korea.

With the global car fleet set to double over the next decade, many new vehicles will need alternative energy sources, such as electricity, hydrogen and biofuels, or at the very least be more energy and resource efficient. The new initiative will promote clean vehicles by encouraging research and innovation into green technologies, setting common standards and developing the infrastructure needed as well as standardising charging interfaces.

Objectives include more efficient energy conversion, improved energy storage, better use of materials and improved design, simulation, prototyping and testing of vehicles, parts and processes. Efforts will also be put into raising consumer awareness, creating more open global automotive markets and dealing with the employment challenges posed by restructuring the automotive industry and reskilling its workforce.

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Industry-wide approach

According to the EU 2009 Industrial Investment Scoreboard, the European automotive industry is the largest private investor in R&D, spending €32.8 billion in 2008. The European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR), which involves the major European vehicle manufacturers, is responsible for a wide range of co-operative R&D. Reducing CO2 emissions is a complex challenge and involves improvements to the whole vehicle, not just the engine. EUCAR priorities include: alternative fuels and electrification; and ecological and efficient manufacturing.

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