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Siim Kallas

Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for transport

Electric vehicles in Europe – tackling the challenges

The European Electric Vehicles Conference, 2011

Brussels, 26 May 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It is my pleasure to address you today at the European Electric Vehicles Conference. I welcome this initiative by the Centre for European Policy Studies and Forum Europe. I am also pleased to note your interest in debating how we can best work together to help make electric vehicles a reality in Europe.

Electromobility – the wider scope

Transport is fundamental to our economy and society. It connects Europeans and European businesses. It directly employs around 10 million people and accounts for about 5% of EU GDP. Transport also largely depends on oil and is a major source of emissions. Our challenge is to help transport address future constraints without sacrificing its efficiency, while not just maintaining but enhancing the competitiveness of the industry.

Let me mention some of these challenges:

  • We cannot continue to be completely dependent on oil. Oil will become scarcer in future decades and is increasingly sourced from uncertain supplies. Reliable alternatives need to be in place long before we run out of oil.

  • We also need to lead the way: many European companies are world leaders in infrastructure, logistics, traffic management systems and manufacturing of transport equipment. We need to keep this competitiveness in the European transport sector.

  • Urbanization is a constant trend and our cities are increasingly congested. This leads to a deteriorating impact on the local environment, such as air quality or noise, and contributes to increasing CO2 emissions.

  • The EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. To reach this target, transport will need to cut its emissions by at least 60% with respect to 1990.

These challenges exist not only for Europe; scarce oil, congestion in cities and climate change are global concerns. Anticipating the deployment of the right technologies and adopting the best business practice will allow us to stay at the level of our competitors who, of course, are not sitting still – China for example is investing massively in infrastructure and in clean vehicles.

The White Paper "A Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area", adopted by the European Commission on 28 March, is addressing these challenges – and more than that. For the first time, we will look at a long-term vision for European transport up to 2050. Besides the target of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport by 2050, the White Paper calls for halving the use of conventional cars – diesel and gasoline – by 2030, and for phasing them out by 2050.

To meet these long-term objectives, we need to develop a whole range of measures. At the end of 2011, I will present a medium-term strategy for European transport research and innovation – the strategic transport technology plan (STTP), a framework for future transport research, innovation and deployment, based on a vision for an integrated, efficient and environmentally friendly European transport system by 2050. Next year, I will complement that with an initiative on clean transport systems, a comprehensive fuel strategy and concrete actions aiming to gradually substitute fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. We are aiming for long-term solutions but actions have to be taken now. We have no time to lose.

We are for instance considering how to ensure minimum infrastructure coverage across Europe for the main alternative fuels. Such a proposal would then be presented together with the alternative fuel strategy in the clean transport systems package next year. An important building block of the clean transport systems initiative is the report by the expert group on future transport fuels, published on 25th January, which outlines a comprehensive fuel strategy for all modes of transport. The conclusions of this report consider electric propulsion (battery and hydrogen/fuel cells) constitutes one of the main options to substitute oil in the long term. Electricity is an energy carrier which can be produced from any primary energy source, and can in principle be made CO2 free.

But technical and economic uncertainties are still too high to rely on a single solution. In agreement with most stakeholders, Europe should support a package of the different options for future transport fuels to ensure sustainable mobility for our future generations.

How will electromobility contribute to meeting the targets of the White Paper?

The electrification of road transport could radically change the way mobility is organised, in particular in urban areas. Ultra-clean and silent buses would improve the image of public transport. Clean and silent service and delivery vehicles would improve the quality of life in cities. This would take us a lot closer to the greener, less congested, and more accessible city we have projected in the action plan on urban mobility, as adopted by the Commission in 2009.

Electromobility means not only changing the way vehicles move around. Electromobility will also trigger further developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) such as intelligent transport systems (ITS) and smart grids. These technologies will not only allow maintaining of the competitiveness of these sectors but will increasingly improve the environment and road safety. What we need now is to strengthen support for the necessary technological development, and pave the way for the market introduction of these technologies in Europe, and thereby strengthen our lead on a global level.

EU policy has already provided for the development of clean vehicles and, in particular, electric vehicles. The Commission supports technological development and has taken legislative actions to help overcome market entry barriers. The clean vehicle directive ensures on a mandatory basis that public procurement promotes clean and energy efficient vehicles. In addition, the Commission communication "A European Strategy for Clean and Energy Efficient Vehicles", adopted last year, provides for an appropriate policy framework for such vehicles. Specific actions will be pursued to promote the market take up of electric vehicles in Europe, such as standards and type approval issues.

Support to research and development for clean vehicles is implemented through the green car initiative, a public/private partnership with a total budget of €1 billion. Electromobility is a focal point of the green car initiative: it involves co-financing research, technical development and demonstration of electric vehicles and infrastructure and contributes to the development of technical standards. In the context of the green car initative, the European Commission is supporting a large European demonstration project (€24.2 million of EU funding). The objective of the Green e-motion project is an acceleration of the market roll-out of electric vehicles in Europe. This project should contribute to clarify the safety, economic and technical viability of the different types of electrical vehicles for a broad market introduction, as well as identify the necessary standards and requirements for an interoperable charging infrastructure at European level.

I believe that "Green e-motion" will give a major boost to the market introduction of electric vehicles in Europe by making sure that European citizens will be able to operate and recharge their cars in the same way throughout Europe. A partnership of electromobility regions has been established earlier this year to support the common development of electromobility across Europe. Close collaboration between this partnership and 'Green e-motion' will be key for the successful impact of the project all over Europe. The Commission also expects the "Green e-motion" project to set up a large forum of stakeholders, including cities and industry, to allow an intense information exchange between the project and the other electromobility projects in Europe. I invite the stakeholders present here today to express their interest by contacting the project consortium.

To conclude: the challenges we are facing in moving towards sustainable mobility and transport are considerable, but I am confident that electric vehicles will contribute to successfully overcoming these, if the public and private sectors work closely together. I look forward to receiving feedback from the specific sessions. Thank you for your attention and enjoy the conference.

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