Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a vicious circle. With the new Directive, Member States will have to provide a minimum infrastructure for alternative fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed and user information.
EC Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "This is a major innovation and a milestone in the roll-out of clean fuels in Europe. These new rules are a direct response to calls from industry, investors, consumers and national authorities for a clear framework to set the future direction for clean fuels in Europe, to end uncertainty and allow investments to follow. This vote sends a clear signal that Europe is putting clean fuels at the heart of its transport policy, and the drive to develop a transport system fit for the 21st century."
The main measures agreed are:
- Minimum levels of infrastructure across the EU. A requirement on Member States to submit to the Commission national plans for minimum levels of infrastructure – refuelling and recharging stations - for alternative fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas. The targets and objectives will be published by the Commission. There is also a review mechanism in the Directive to allow the Commission to assess if national targets are sufficient to deliver a critical mass of infrastructure or if mandatory targets at EU level – as had been originally proposed by the Commission - will be needed;
- EU wide standards for the infrastructure. Common EU wide standards are essential for the development of these fuels. The agreement requires the use of common plugs for electric vehicles and standardised refuelling equipment for hydrogen and natural gas as well as the development of future standards for wireless recharging points, battery swapping technology and standardised plugs for buses and motorcycles. This will end the uncertainty that has been holding back business and consumers.
- Clear consumer information to facilitate use - including on the recharging and refuelling stations themselves, as well as comparison of prices for the different clean and conventional fuels based on a methodology to be developed by the Commission.
Following the vote of the European Parliament, the new rules should be formally adopted by Council later this year.
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