Decarbonising road transport is one of the key challenges of the European Green Deal. Moving towards carbon neutral mobility by 2050 and ultimately healthier streets will require a strong and concerted set of actions from different industry sectors, policymakers and society.
The electricity industry is fully aware of its role in the decarbonisation of road transport and is committed to playing its part in paving the road to climate neutrality. As we increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) circulating on our streets, it becomes imperative to ensure that decarbonised electricity powers them. We are on our way to do so: 85% of the power provided in Europe already in 2030 will be coming from zero-emission sources.
Time to cut the carb(s)
Nonetheless, efforts are required from different sectors: zero- and low-carbon power generation and distribution, smart grid solutions and zero-emission vehicles. All these industries need strong signals from policymakers creating the right conditions for investment in zero-emission and carbon-neutral solutions.
This implies a multifaceted range of complementary policy instruments, and ultimately full coherence between all legislative proposals under the 'Fit for 55' package. Four enabling measures must be taken in parallel.
First, setting ambitious emission reduction targets for cars and vans, aiming at 2035 for the phase-out of the internal combustion engine.
Second, rolling-out recharging and refuelling infrastructure through the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
Third, supporting the decarbonisation of transport, by incentivising the uptake of renewables through the Renewable Energy Directive.
Fourth, stimulating demand for zero- and low-carbon solutions through the carbon pricing mechanism in the Emissions Trading System, as well as the greenhouse gas content-based ranking of taxation in the Energy Taxation Directive.
As the number of EVs on the road meets and exceeds targets, the deployment of charging infrastructure needs to keep pace. Minimum binding targets for public charging infrastructure deployment, based on the size of the EV fleet, will prove crucial to reach the number of chargers estimated necessary by Eurelectric and EY : 13 million by 2025, 34 million by 2030, and 65 million by 2035. Nonetheless, higher ambition than the current AFIR proposal is needed to kickstart national investment in the charging network and bring it to where it needs to be to support mass EV adoption.
Despite positive signals given by a European public-charger network expanded by 36% in 2021 compared to 2020, multiple hurdles obstruct infrastructure rollout, affecting the user experience, and slowing down EV adoption. Hence, local authorities should be empowered to address long permitting delays, simplify administrative procedures, and accelerate the installation of public and private charging infrastructure.
With regards to the latter, as 29 million chargers in 2030 and 56 million in 2035 will be residential, the minimum requirements in the EPBD proposal must be ambitious, to make all European buildings EV-ready.
Europeans need a dense, seamless, accessible, and interoperable European charging network. So, what needs to happen?
On one side, it is essential to foster the synchronous ramp-up of electric vehicles and infrastructure. To reach this objective, the fleet-based targets proposed by AFIR will be crucial for the creation of a harmonised and coherent rollout of charging infrastructure across Europe. Also, easing the pre-cabling and installation of charging points in private buildings via the EPBD are our other crucial levers.
On the other, it is crucial to strengthen the existing consumerfriendly and affordable European charging market, without prejudice to the contractual freedom of this market's operators.
Building a consumer-friendly and affordable European charging market requires getting rid of burdensome technical provisions which could undermine our efforts. For instance, retrofits for smart charging capabilities on all EV chargers and retrofit with regards to payment options, can turn into higher prices for consumers due to the costly equipment of payment units.
These requirements need to be removed. Finally, interfering in the contractual freedom between the different market operators even when non-discriminatory access is guaranteed is not well-placed as it does not recognise the complexity of the interactions among e-mobility ecosystem players.
The road ahead
The electricity industry has undeniably a crucial role to play. EV penetration will see electricity demand grow by 11% per year, exacerbating the risk of congestion.
Fortunately, smart, and flexible solutions already exist and will be able to mitigate this risk. Managed charging, either via supplier-managed smart charging or a user-managed response to time-of-use tariffs, will allow for load shifting, dampening the spike in peak load by up to 21%, compared to unmanaged charging.
Additionally, smart meters and grids will increase monitoring capabilities and therefore contribute to a more accurate understanding of where grid modernisation investments are needed or can be avoided. Hence, accelerating the deployment of smart charging capabilities for newly built public and private chargers remain fundamental.
Moreover, energy storage systems provided by EVs and stationary batteries could provide valuable balancing services, reducing charging operations' dependency on local grids. In recognising this role, we should avoid the double taxation of electricity storage.
Finally, a forward-looking regulatory framework for distribution system operators that encourages adequate investment is needed, recognising their key role in the deployment and integration of EV charging infrastructure. If done properly EVs can play a big part in improving grid stability by providing flexibility services such as load balancing, peak shaving, regulation of frequency, and support for the incorporation of renewable energy.