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Cleaner, more secure energy for cars - 24/01/2013

A car plugged into an electric socket ©Виталий Кривошеев

Proposals to boost use of alternative fuels would ensure drivers can fill up or plug in at more stations across EU.

If more drivers switched to cars powered by electricity, hydrogen and natural gas – rather than petrol and diesel – it would help make the EU less dependent on oil imports, as well curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the widespread use of alternative fuels is being held back by the high cost of vehicles, low consumer acceptance, and a lack of recharging and refuelling stations.

To remove these barriers, the Commission plans to set binding targets and common standards. The main proposals cover:

  • electricity – a minimum number of recharging stations per country and a standard plug so drivers can recharge anywhere in the EU
  • hydrogen – common standards for fuel hoses and other components at filling stations in 14 EU countries
  • liquefied natural gas – filling stations for lorries every 400 km along the proposed unified European transport network; filling stations for ships would also be required at all 139 maritime and inland ports along the network
  • compressed natural gas – accessible refuelling stations, with common standards, available to ordinary cars Europe-wide at least every 150 km by 2020.

EU countries would be able to implement these changes by adapting local laws and taxes to encourage private sector investment. EU funding is already available to support such changes.

The proposals do not address other alternative fuels that either use existing infrastructure (biofuels and synthetic fuels) or already have core infrastructure in place (liquefied petroleum gas).

Developing a modern network

Some 84% of the oil used by all modes of transport is imported (around €1 billion a day in 2011). Most of this is bought from unstable regions of the world – an uncertain supply.

Switching to cleaner fuels is an obvious way to make Europe's economy more energy independent.

The approach is in line with the Commission's transport roadmap, which sets targets to both increase mobility and further integrate the EU's transport networks by 2050 – while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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