AFIR: proposal for charging and refuelling points already lacks ambition, but risks being further watered down
Regardless of whether we look at cars, vans or trucks, future CO2 targets can only be met if they are accompanied by equally ambitious, and mandatory, targets telling each of the 27 EU member states how many electric charging points and hydrogen refuelling stations they need to deploy.
Message from ACEA’s Director General – November 2021
The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) is the key piece of legislation proposed by the European Commission to ensure sufficient deployment of public infrastructure, but the AFIR targets tabled by the Commission are far from ambitious enough. What is more, there are signals that member states want to dilute the ambition level instead of increasing it.
Back in July, the Commission put AFIR forward as part of its overarching ‘Fit for 55’ climate package, which also proposes new CO2 targets for cars and vans. Now it is up to the national governments and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to assess those plans. And while MEPs appointed their Rapporteur for AFIR fairly recently, with discussions expected only to really take off in the first quarter of next year, developments at member state level have been going much faster.
Although the Council probably will not reach an agreement before Christmas, it is expected that when the French take over the Presidency of the Council from Slovenia on 1 January, they will try to reach a deal among member states early in the year. However, what we have heard so far seems to indicate that some member states are trying to water down the AFIR targets proposed by the Commission rather than strengthening them in order to match the ambition level of the CO2 targets.
Some member states are trying to water down the AFIR targets proposed by the Commission rather than strengthening them in order to match the ambition level of the CO2 targets.
Attempts by the Slovenes to reach a compromise that were leaked, spoke about delaying the timeline for deployment, lowering the power output of charging stations and increasing the maximum distance between infrastructure.
That is extremely worrisome, because Europe’s automobile manufacturers are already seriously concerned about the overall lack of ambition of the Commission’s AFIR proposal in the first place, as the targets seem to be even lower than those of the current Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) – which delivered disappointing results so far.
If some member states get their way, we might end up getting even weaker AFIR targets that would make the expected CO2 reductions even less realistic to attain instead of stepping up infrastructure deployment.
We might end up getting even weaker AFIR targets that would make the expected CO2 reductions even less realistic to attain instead of stepping up infrastructure deployment.
Plenty of food for thought I would say – and that is exactly why ACEA organised a webinar on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation earlier this month. Together with key policy and decision makers, an NGO and experts we talked about what is needed to make AFIR ambitious enough to accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral mobility, both from the perspective of cars and heavy-duty vehicles.
We kicked off the webinar with a panel discussion looking at the challenges for passenger cars and vans. The opening speech was given by Ismail Ertug MEP, who was recently appointed as the AFIR Rapporteur of the Parliament’s lead Transport Committee. In his remarks, Ertug stressed that time is running out for infrastructure deployment and that Europe needs to act urgently.
Echoing widely-held views that AFID – the predecessor of AFIR – has failed to deliver results, Ertug said: “We have lost so many valuable years. In 2013, an ambitious proposal was already on the table. Had it been adopted as proposed, there would be 677,000 charging stations spread across the EU today.”
Echoing widely-held views that AFID – the predecessor of AFIR – has failed to deliver results, Ismail Ertug MEP said: “We have lost so many valuable years.”
“Back then the initial proposal also set binding targets for all member states. Yet, it was watered down, particularly by the Council of Ministers, to an extent that only non-binding national action plans remained.”
The AFIR Rapporteur stressed that binding infrastructure targets for all member states are thus essential for a successful transition to zero-emission mobility in Europe, adding that he sees AFIR and the CO2 targets as a single package.
Petr Dolejsi, Mobility & Sustainable Transport Director at ACEA, talked about the AFIR position of Europe’s car makers in more detail. He explained that ACEA welcomes the proposal to use a Regulation for the new infrastructure targets, as it provides much higher legal certainty for all parties than the current Directive.
ACEA welcomes the proposal to use a Regulation for the new infrastructure targets, as it provides much higher legal certainty for all parties than the current Directive.
Dolejsi: “The EU auto industry is ready to build all those electric and hydrogen cars, but as part of AFIR some 7 million public charging points will need to be deployed to reach the car CO2 targets that are foreseen by the Commission, instead of the 3.9 million in the current proposal.”
Axel Volkery of the European Commission’s DG MOVE argued that during the upcoming trilogue with Council and Parliament the “Commission will try to ensure that the final package agreed is consistent and covers all relevant Fit for 55 targets.”
The Deputy Head of Unit also stressed that infrastructure deployment and “grid capacity are not only a question of financing. The main bottleneck is actually the time required for the permitting and planning of EV infrastructure and linking it to the electricity grid. That needs to happen much quicker,” Volkery said.
Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director Vehicles & E-Mobility at T&E, shared the NGO’s point of view on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, stressing the need for ambitious targets. As for the issue of grid capacity, T&E believes that rather than being a potential threat to the grid, electric vehicles (EVs) will add flexibility to Europe’s electricity system. Through smart and vehicle-to-grid charging, EVs can actually help to reduce peak electricity demand, she argued.
Poliscanova also underlined that “it is great that AFIR is a Regulation now. This must absolutely be kept to ensure fast and effective implementation,” according to T&E. “We also need to keep the binding nature of the infrastructure targets, as we all know what went wrong with AFID in the past.”
Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director Vehicles & E-Mobility at T&E: “We need to keep the binding nature of the infrastructure targets, as we all know what went wrong with AFID in the past.”
Indeed, while ACEA and T&E weren’t exactly always aligned in the past, there is an increasing level of agreement and cooperation, especially when it comes to advocating the need for more infrastructure.
We recently also joined forces with T&E to bring the importance of the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to the attention of the European Commission. Because in addition to strong AFIR targets for public infrastructure, Europe will also need an ambitious EPBD to ensure that sufficient private and semi-public charging points are delivered at home and at work.
Coming back to the main takeaways of our AFIR webinar earlier this month, the second half of the discussion focused on the needs of heavy-duty vehicles, which require very different infrastructure to cars and vans.
As Thomas Fabian, ACEA’s Commercial Vehicles Director, made clear, it will be important to roll out a parallel network of charging and refuelling stations that is specifically tailored to the needs of heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs). After all, the ability of transport operators to invest in low- and zero-emission trucks is closely linked to the level of available infrastructure.
Fabian: “Already by 2025, at least 40,000 battery-electric trucks will have to be in operation in Europe, and by 2030 we will see well above 300,000 zero-emission trucks on our roads – both battery electric trucks and fuel-cell ones. Member states need to step up their AFIR ambition to ensure that the right infrastructure is available in time, so we really need dedicated and ambitious targets for HDV infrastructure.”
Already by 2025, at least 40,000 battery-electric trucks will have to be in operation in Europe, and by 2030 we will see well above 300,000 zero-emission trucks on our roads.
Likewise, Fabian stressed, it will also remain necessary to complete an EU-wide refuelling network for low- and zero-carbon fuels to make sure we can also further reduce CO2 emissions from the existing fleet of vehicles.
Referring to the need for a parallel network dedicated to heavy-duty vehicles, the Commission’s Axel Volkery warned that, while they know that: “trucks are very different from cars, this understanding is not always found in the ongoing AFIR discussions [with member states and the Parliament]. The Commission sees the clear need to establish charging and refuelling infrastructure for trucks as a separate system from cars and vans.”
Trucks are very different from cars, but this understanding is not always found in the ongoing AFIR discussions with EU member states and the European Parliament.
Going into more detail on how this infrastructure network should take shape, Dr Patrick Plötz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI shared some of the key findings of their study on the locations most suitable for truck charging infrastructure in Europe.
According to Plötz, the locations of charging points should be determined based on the actual operational patterns of trucks. The study found, for instance, that 10% of the locations most frequented by trucks in Europe accounted for about 50% of all stops that trucks make – with the most important locations being rest areas along motorways, company sites, logistic hubs and ports.
The different stopping time patterns of trucks (ranging from short stops of under an hour to overnight parking) also play a role in determining their charging needs, such as the time available for a full recharge and thus the power output needed.
As Ismail Ertug MEP summarised the main challenge in the truck segment: “unlike the case with cars, charging at home is not an option for heavy-duty vehicles. Transport companies have to make huge investments if they want their own truck charging station today.” To address that problem, AFIR has an important role to play in making public charging points available for trucks, the Rapporteur concluded.
Looking back at the fruitful discussions we had during our webinar, my main takeaway is that all participants seemed to agree that the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation and the CO2 targets have to be seen as one interlinked package.
The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation and the CO2 targets have to be seen as one interlinked package.
This means that we must continue to drive the message home to national governments, MEPs and policy makers that they need to understand that the ambition level of either piece of legislation requires to be fully synchronised with the other one.
The fact that AFIR and the CO2 Regulation for cars and vans are being treated by different Committees in the European Parliament is, for example, one of those factors indicating that we might risk ending up with a climate package that is out of sync.
Hence, it is important that in the months to come we keep reminding the Council, Parliament and Commission that, instead of focusing on reaching compromises in isolation, they have to verify at every stage of the process that the different pieces of the complex Fit for 55 puzzle remain fully aligned.
Director General of ACEA