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E-fuel’s given EU approval and Hydrogen fuelling stations agreed for all major European cities.

By March 29, 2023 No Comments

European states are forging ahead with alternative fuel legislation to decarbonise the transport sector.

Despite legislation having been drawn up to ban the sale of new ICE’s from 2035, a recent standoff created by the German automotive industry has meant a U-turn on previous agreements.

25% of all European emissions are from the transport sector and 70% of those from road transport. The original agreements envisioned only new electric vehicles being available to be purchased from 2035.

However, Germany having recently put a metaphorical spanner in the works has changed the journey to zero emissions.

On the 28th of February 2023 Euractiv reported that Germany had announced that they would abstain from the vote on the EU’s ban on new petrol or diesel cars as of 2035 unless the European Commission proposes how new combustion engine cars could be registered even after that date if they run exclusively on e-fuels. (1)

Transport Minister Volker Wissing told journalists that Germany would only agree to the agreement if the Commission made a proposal on how vehicles with internal combustion engines running only on e-fuels could be registered even after 2035. (1)

“The European Commission must deliver, to enable a registration of combustion engine vehicles even after 2035”, he said. “We need all options,” including battery-electric, hydrogen and combustion engines running on e-fuels, he added. (1)

Within the space of a few short weeks the EU has approved the use of e-fuels and in doing so has opened up the alternative fuel options for automotive manufacturers. On Tuesday 28th March 23 EU countries gave final approval to a landmark law to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars in 2035. (2)

The EU law will require all new cars sold to have zero CO2 emissions from 2035, and 55% lower CO2 emissions from 2030, versus 2021 levels. The targets are designed to drive the rapid decarbonisation of new car fleets in Europe. (2)

E-fuels are considered carbon neutral because they are made using captured CO2 emissions – which proponents say balances out the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted in an engine. (2)

Hydrogen has long been accepted as a partner in the race to decarbonise transport but is mostly targeted at the heavy-duty sector.

However, on the 27th of March 23 EU nations also agreed to install hydrogen fuelling stations in all major cities and every 200km along core routes.

This agreement forms part of the alternative fuel infrastructure regulation (AFIR) part of the Fit for 55 package. The package agreed in 2021 aims to enable the EU to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieve climate neutrality in 2050.

Following an agreement between the Council of ministers and the European Parliament the new Regulation for the deployment of AFIR has been reached.

The agreement sees EU states agree to build hydrogen fuelling stations in all major cities and at least every 200km along the core Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

The regulation stipulates that the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure can serve both cars and heavy-duty vehicles such as buses and trucks and must be deployed from 2030 in all “urban nodes” — an EU term for 424 major cities in the bloc with ports, airports and rail terminals. (3)

Frans Timmermans, the commission’s executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, added: “The transition to zero-emission mobility has to be supported by the right infrastructure, ready for you when you need it, where you need it. (3)

These two agreements certainly support more stability in the automotive industry. These agreements can ensure car, van and truck manufacturers have a better vision on what their fleet can look like in a zero-emissions future.

Having the opportunity to utilise infrastructure which already exists and vary their vehicle portfolios can also support the vast network of industries and suppliers which support the automotive industry, something which is often overlooked when policies are made.

However, one topic still under debate is the use of sustainable bio-fuels or bio-gasolines as yet another alternative fuel. Bio-fuel has been proven to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and can be used now in ICE vehicles. Sustainable biofuel can also behave in the same way as e-fuels by recycling CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Italy had warned the European Commission that it would only support a solution to unblock the EU’s planned phase-out of combustion engine cars by 2035 if it allowed the sale of cars running on biofuels to continue after that date. However, in the final vote Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained.

The European nations are forging ahead with their zero emissions transport plans. By being flexible in their approach they are enabling a variety of technologies to take their transport system to zero emissions.

“Electric or otherwise, we want every driver in Europe to be certain that they can travel in confidence throughout the continent. With this agreement we ensure that there are sufficient and user-friendly options available throughout Europe, for both cars, and heavy-duty vehicles.” Frans Timmermans, Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal.

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.