European Union Adopts Set of Standards Designed to Make Alternative Fuel Vehicle Ownership Easier

As any owner of an electric, plug-in hybrid, or other alternative fuelled vehicle in Europe will tell you, support for their vehicles varies greatly from country to country and region to region, meaning that sometimes making even the simplest of trips can be a logistical nightmare.

Yesterday however, the European Union took the first step in an attempt to change that forever by adopting a new directive designed to make it possible for alternative fuelled vehicles to drive around Europe as easily as any gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle. The goal: to ensure the EU meets its own modest 10 per cent renewable transportation targets by 2025.

Electric car charging provision of 1 point per 10 cars is suggested.

Electric car charging provision of 1 point per 10 cars is suggested.

Under the agreement, member states of the EU must set and publicly disclose their own country’s targets and policies on alternative vehicle infrastructure by the end of 2015. Each of the 28 member states will also be expected to meet a minimum set of refuelling requirements for electric, hydrogen and compressed natural gas vehicles, as well as adopt a single set of standards for refuelling of each vehicle.

For compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, the directive — which will come into law twenty days after being published later this week — suggests a target of one refuelling location ever 150 kilometres (93 miles), with a focus on urban and suburban locations and alongside the TEN-T road network. A Europe-wide set of key road routes designed to expedite travel around the EU, the TEN-T network links major cities and ports, but in no way provides comprehensive links to every major European city.

When it comes to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles, the directive calls for further extension of existing networks, with refuelling stations every 400 kilometres (248 miles) along major TEN-T routes.

For electric vehicles, this equates to adopting a single recharging standard for AC charging stations and DC rapid charging stations, although given the various DC quick charging stations already in use we’re not sure quite how this will be implemented in the real world.

When it comes to charging station provision, the directive sets a suggested charging station to car ratio of 1:10, meaning a country like the UK — which aims to have 1.55 million plug-in cars on the roads of the UK by 2020 — will need to install some 155,000 charging stations to meet the necessary targets.  Sadly however, the directive still focuses on promoting electromobility in urban and suburban environments: there’s no mandated provision for longer-distance trips.

Interestingly, hydrogen refuelling isn’t mandated beyond ‘a sufficient number of refuelling stations’ for states which decide to adopt hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This is noticeably less than the requirements for other alternative fuels, perhaps suggesting that the EU is acutely aware of the cost of implementing and organising hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

The EU wants a minimum set of fuelling stations for hydrogen, LPG, CNG and Electric vehicles.

The EU wants a minimum set of fuelling stations for hydrogen, LPG, CNG and Electric vehicles.

Taken at face value, the infrastructure directive could be a important driving force to help promote the use of alternative fuels across Europe, marking a switch from gasoline and highly-popular yet polluting diesel vehicles to far greener vehicles.

But without hard and fast legislation on the total number of refuelling stations, critics are already calling the directive weak and ineffectual.

What do we think?

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re keen to see any legislation or directive that’s designed to get more alternative fuelled vehicles on the roads of Europe. Given the number of different countries involved and the variety of support currently implemented, we’re also glad to see some attempt to codify at least a single set of standards and expectations for each member state. But what worries us is the scope of the proposed directive when it comes to provision for alternative fuels outside of major urban areas.

The directive calls for concentration of refuelling along the TEN-T routes, and in urban and suburban areas.

The directive calls for concentration of refuelling along the TEN-T routes, and in urban and suburban areas.

For example, as our aborted cross-Europe trip earlier this year demonstrated, reliable and comprehensive rapid charging infrastructure is essential for electric car trips outside of the confines of big city centres. Since most electric cars on the market today can easily travel more than 70 miles on a charge without needing to refuel, electric car owners who live and commute in the same city don’t need to even use public charging if they have access to overnight charging at home. What’s worse, most electric cars on the market today come with some form of rapid charging capabilities, making them more than capable of longer-distance trips. Provided there’s suitable infrastructure, of course.

Since not every member state has an affordable, reliable public transportation infrastructure, those making a decision to buy a new car will naturally choose a vehicle which offers the best autonomy in their home country. If renewable and alternative fuel options are focused on only urban and suburban areas or a few choice road networks, we’re doubtful the directive will help the average car buyer to make the switch to cleaner, greener transport.

But what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Nigel Jones

    So they touched on an RC standard, which I agree is tricky – but no comment on “roaming” between operators and/or ability to use a standard credit card. To enable long distance we need to be able to use the chargers too!nnI’d also like to see more reference to enablement of long distance journeys as well as local, there seems a continued suggestion that EVs are no good for long distances. agreed they’re not perfect right now, but as range increases, charging rates improve. nnHow about recommending legislation similar to that for disabled spaces (albeit a UK issue there) – since most other restrictions aren’t really legally enforceable.

  • The charging station to electric vehicle ratio of 1:10 is very odd. There is no reference to charging speed. This is problematic that the ratio lumps all charging point connections into one group; be it slow speed charging, or high speed on-route charging. The number of EV served by a slow charger is just a few per day if vehicles that 3-5+ hours to charge. While highspeed can serve a couple vehicles per hour (ie: minutes per charge, vs hours). For highspeed charging stations (DCFC) a ratio of 1:100 could be a good ratio provided stations had multiple redundant connections and are in an accessable network of reasonably spacing between charging stations. nnThe lack of a specified spacing between charging stations for electric vehicles is disturbing. eg: The CNG spacing suggests a target of one refuelling location ever 150 kilometres (93 miles). The spacing has a direct implication to a CNG vehicles fuel caring capacity. The charging station spacing was omitted for electrc vehicles. If EVs charging stations locations were to meet the same 150 km (90 mile) requirement, it implies EVs with a battery capacity of 200 km (125 miles). This is to travel key road routes designed to expedite travel around the EU, the TEN-T network links major cities and ports (same capability as a CNG vehicle). nnWhile EVs with a battery capacity of 200 km (125 miles) aren’t common today, this range that many manufactures are stating for the next generation of EVs to be delivered in the next 3-5 years. To accommodate current generation EVs like the i3 and LEAF with a battery capacity for 120 km (75 miles), additional stations in urban areas would be needed to reduce spacing to 90 km (55 miles). Some charging station network gaps in urban regions would also be satisfied with lower speed destination network charging.nnFor a BEV a battery capacity of 200 km (125 miles) equates to 35-45 kWh depending of efficiency of the vehicle design.nnTwo items that need to be addressed for TEN-T network linking major EU cities and ports are more reliable connectors and same open payment access as other fueling station types. The connectors in use today (specifically DCFC) have a higher failure rate, thus shorter service period than other fueled station outlets. Today charging station operators require each brand to have different access cards and payment methods. Both access and reliability of individual stations needs to be improved (better engineered) for a TEN-T network deployment. nnNote: a 150 km (90 mile) network is not vastly different than Tesla’s Supercharger network being built today. The designed spacing for supercharger stations is a maximum distance of 240 km (150 miles). This being designed for an EV capable of 300 km (200 miles). ie: a minimum battery capacity of 55 kWh.nnMy focus glossed over slower speed “destination charging” as other alt. fuels leaned to travel requirements vs. urban requirements. Home charging will remain the most used charging location for those with dedicated overnight parking.nnIn general there will be a reduced need for slower speed charging as battery capacities increase. Also as battery capacities increase, they are capable of faster (higher power) charging. While there will always be a need for destination charging, the cost for a business is much lower and it doesn’t need as coordinated strategy to build a network vs. a T-TEN network. (destination charging needs are more dictated by regional requirements).