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Alternative fuels debate: are green cars the future of European transport?

Transport - 14-02-2013 - 11:14
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What should the EU do to promote alternative fuels? © BELGA_DPA_David Ebener

A bit of biofuel drops from a petrol nozzle at a petrol station in Germany

Alternative fuels such as biofuels, natural gas or electricity have been pitched as a way to overcome Europe's dependence on oil as no less than 94% of transport uses it, of which 84.3% is imported. However, support is needed if vehicles running on these alternative fuels are to take off. The Commission presented its ideas for this in its Clean Power for Transport strategy, which will be presented to the EP's transport committee on 19 February. We talked to chair Brian Simpson about it.

The challenge of promoting green cars


Alternative fuels might be the solution to reducing transport's impact on the environment but they are being held back by low consumer demand caused by high prices and a lack of recharging and refuelling stations, which in turn discourage consumers from buying green cars. 


Mr Simpson, a British member of the S&D group, welcomed the Commission's long-term strategy for changing this. "We cannot keep relying on fossil fuels. Much of the focus is on electric cars, but we must remember that there are still problems with this solution, not least with battery life. I believe that other fuels, such as water-based fuels and biofuels, may also have a part to play."


The need for infrastructure

 

The Commission is proposing a package of binding targets on member states for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels. However, would this solve the problem?


Mr Simpson said it was a dilemma to know what to put in place first. "I believe that the infrastructure needs to be in place to give consumers the confidence to buy non-fossil fuel powered vehicles." However, he added: "It should be the producers of non-fossil fuel options that fund the infrastructure, just as petrol manufacturers pay for petrol stations."     


How many out of approximately 1.3 billions cars in the world run on clean fuels?


Electric cars (2011)

Natural gas vehicles (2011)

Hydrogen vehicles (2012)

Biofuels (2009)

Number of cars

Recharging points

Number of cars


Refuelling stations

Number of cars

Share in all fuels (%)

US

19,860

US

7,500

Iran

2,859,386

Pakistan

3,285

Worldwide

650

Latin

America

11.2

Japan

7,671

UK

1,600

Pakistan

2,850,500

Argentina

1,878

US

300

US

4

Germany

1,858

China

1,500

Argentina

1,900,000

Brazil

1,725

South Korea

130

EU

3

France

1,796

France

1,270

Brazil

1,694,278

Iran

1,574

Germany

65

Brazil

3

China

1,560

Japan

1,100

Italy

746,000

Germany

903

Japan

50

China

1

UK

1,170

Germany

960

Germany

100,000

Italy

858


Sources: Commission, OECD, International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles


 
REF.: 20130211STO05806