Mass electric car use won't happen by itself

Thursday July 16, 2015 14:06

In 2050, all private cars in Europe should have electric motors powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. That seems crucial for achieving the European CO2 reduction objective for transport. But how can countries ensure that there will be enough charging stations? How can they make certain that electricity grids will not become overloaded? And that hydrogen fuel stations will be available? According to ECN researcher Hein de Wilde, policymakers must take action now. “The transition to electric transport will not happen by itself.”

Push hard and above all: work together. That is what policymakers at the local, national and European level should do in the coming years in order to ensure that Europe makes the transition to 'zero-emission' vehicles en masse. 

Transport sector revolution
If we want to achieve the EU objective for the transport sector, this sector needs to experience a revolution. A CO2 reduction of at least 70 percent - compared to the situation today - must be achieved by 2050. Combustion engines and petrol pumps must therefore be replaced by batteries, fuel cells, charging stations and hydrogen fuel stations in the coming decades. Since it will take 15 years for the entire fleet to be replaced, from 2035 only new private cars that run emission-free will be sold. And since biofuels will be reserved for long-distance transport by that time, new private cars will need to run on electricity. Moreover, the emissions of heavier trucks, aircraft, ships and trains will remain, since these vehicles will still partially use fossil fuels. 

Priorities for policymakers
In the European Green eMotion project, we investigated what a large-scale roll-out of battery-powered electric cars would require. My colleagues and I have identified a number of top priorities. For example, there must be an infrastructure that allows cars to charge anywhere in Europe as of 2035. The electricity grid has to be capable of supporting this, people have to want to purchase an electric car and policy-makers have to pursue the same objectives. After all, the transition to electric transport will not happen by itself. We therefore advocate subsidies that convince investors, as well as the placement of charging points at smart locations, such as petrol stations or shopping centres. Furthermore, developers already need to take electric cars into account in the construction of new buildings – e.g. by installing lines or connections for charging points in the parking garages of residential complexes. A wait-and-see attitude is no longer an option.

Take action now
Policymakers must take action now in order to be prepared for a massive increase in electric transport in 20 years. My advice is to draw up a well-considered plan and work together. ECN can provide assistance at the local, national and European level. Our expertise lies in the development of well-balanced policy frameworks. We can facilitate the transition to electric cars at the lowest cost and support cooperation between all the parties involved.

Would you like to know more? Download the research report or contact Hein de Wilde. He will gladly tell you how ECN can help you with your mobility issues.

Category: Juni, Corporate, Policy Studies