Navigation path

Additional tools

Clean transport, Urban transport

Green propulsion in transport

Growing concerns over security of energy supply, climate change and health are driving a shift from fossil to alternative fuels and new vehicle propulsion systems capable of delivering long term sustainability. Three quarters of transport greenhouse emissions come from road transport. Transport is especially vulnerable to oil supply disruption and price volatility. Despite huge reductions in emissions of harmful pollutants, there remain concerns over air quality and noise, especially in urban areas.

Transport is an important building block in the EU energy-climate policy. Europe's climate and energy package includes targets for 2020 for energy efficiency, a target minimum share for renewable energy and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These cannot be reached without a significant contribution from transport.

The Green Cars Initiative, as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan recently adopted by the European Council, is aimed to support the development of new and sustainable forms of road transport.

The Commission is presently supporting three main alternative types of fuels and propulsion technologies which are being developed within the time horizon of 2020. Demonstrations aim to prove vehicle and infrastructure performance and safety with a view to removing market entry barriers. The candidate fuels and propulsion systems include:

  • Biofuels, liquid or gaseous
  • Hydrogen and fuel cells
  • Battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles with plug-in

Related documents


Directive 2009/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles aims at a broad market introduction of green propulsion vehicles. It requires that energy and environmental impacts linked to the operation of vehicles over their whole lifetime are taken into account in all purchases of road transport vehicles, as covered by the public procurement Directives and the public service Regulation.

Regulation (EC) No 443 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the Community's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles stipulates that the fleet average emission to be achieved by all cars registered in the EU should be 130 grams per kilometre (gCO2/km) in 2012.

Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC establishes binding national renewable energy targets that result in an EU target of a 20% share of renewable energy sources in energy consumption in 2020, and a binding 10% minimum target for renewable energy in transport to be achieved by each Member State.

Directive 2009/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC (COM(2007) 18) on environmental quality standards for fuel aims, among other objectives, to allow the phasing in of 10% ethanol in petrol (E10). However; to avoid potential damage to old cars, continued marketing of petrol containing maximum 5% ethanol is to be guaranteed until 2013, with the possibility of an extension to that date if needed. This Directive also aims to introduce a mechanism for reporting and reducing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from fuel.

Council Regulation (EC) No 521/2008 of 30 May 2008 setting up the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking was created to deliver robust hydrogen supply and fuel cell technologies developed to the point of commercial take-off.

The Communication from the Commission - an EU Strategy for Biofuels(COM(2006) 34) of 8 February 2006, which builds on the biomass action plan adopted in December 2005, set out a specific approach to biofuelswith a range of potential market-based, legislative and research measures to boost production of fuels from agricultural raw materials

Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport sets indicative targets for the market share of biofuels of 2% in 2005 and 5,75% in 2010.

Council Directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003 restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity allows Member States favourable tax treatment of alternative motor fuels.

The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on alternative fuels for road transportation and on a set of measures to promote the use of biofuels (COM(2001) 547) of 7 November 2001 identifies alternative motor fuels candidates to substitute fossil oil.

Press room

Greening road transport: EU-funded research supports EU's environmental objectives [MEMO/09/26, 26/01/2009] български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv)

Promoting biofuels as credible alternatives to oil in transport [MEMO/07/5, 10/01/2007] български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv)


Progress report on implementation of the Community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles (10 November 2010) COM(2010) 656

European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Biofuels Progress Report - Report on the progress made in the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels in the Member States of the European Union [COM(2006) 845]

Commission staff Working Document - Annex to the Communication from the Commission - An EU Strategy for Biofuels - Impact assessment [COM(2006) 34]

Market Development of Alternative Fuels - Report of the Alternative Fuels Contact Group, December 2003