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Brussels, 21 December 2005

The European Commission wants to promote clean vehicles

The European Commission today proposed new legislation aimed at contributing towards the creation of a market for “clean” vehicles in order to reduce pollutant emissions in the transport sector. By requiring public bodies to earmark a quarter of their annual procurement requirements to such vehicles, the new European rules will make it possible to give manufacturers the assurances they need in order to develop these vehicles for a wider market.

The growing problems caused by pollution in towns and cities and the steady increase in the price of oil make it necessary to help the motor industry to produce less-polluting vehicles”, stated Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, the Transport Commissioner. Andris Piebalgs, the Energy Commissioner, who was also involved in the proposal for a Directive, added: “Ultimately these measures will make it possible to increase energy efficiency in the transport sector, one of the most polluting and energy–intensive sectors”.

Given the continuing growth of the transport sector and its knock-on effects in terms of pollution and dependence on oil, the Commission stresses the need to develop a market for “clean” vehicles. In the EU as a whole, road transport accounts for approximately one-quarter of total energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The potential for reducing vehicle emissions and making energy savings is substantial. However, the technologies needed remain more expensive than conventional vehicle manufacturing technologies.

Consequently, the European Commission has decided to promote the development of a new generation of vehicles which consume less energy and generate fewer pollutant emissions. The Directive provides that public bodies (State, regional or local authorities, bodies governed by public law, public undertakings and operators contracted by public bodies to supply transport services) will be obliged to allocate a minimum quota of 25% of their annual procurement (purchasing or leasing) of heavy-duty vehicles (with a weight greater than 3.5 tonnes) to “enhanced environmentally friendly vehicles” as defined in the European Performance Standard (EEV).[1] Heavy duty vehicles include buses and most utility vehicles, such as refuse collection lorries.

The “clean” vehicle procurement obligations are initially limited to these vehicle categories for which the market shares accounted for by public bodies are significant (approximately 6% in the case of lorries and around one-third in the case of buses). The increased demand for these less-polluting vehicles will make it possible to support their development by manufacturers: the aim is to establish a viable market by creating sufficient demand to generate economies of scale. The studies carried out by the Commission have demonstrated the positive impact on the competitiveness of the European motor industry. The supply of “clean” vehicles by manufacturers will become an important factor in competitiveness given the urban pollution problems encountered throughout the world by a number of countries experiencing rapid economic growth.

The Commission will examine whether, in a second stage, the quota obligation should be extended to include other vehicle categories. One of the effects of the Directive will be to encourage the development of vehicles adapted to high blends of biofuels (see IP/05/1546 on the Biomass Action Plan). Other examples of the technologies concerned are natural gas, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), hydrogen, electric motors and hybrid vehicles combining a combustion engine with an electric motor.

These technologies have been supported by European funding from the research and development programmes and the Structural Funds. The Commission proposal will now be forwarded to the Council and the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure.

See also MEMO/05/495

[1] As defined in Directive 2005/55/EC, OJ L 275, 20.10.2005, p. 1.

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