EU’s Proposed Green Deal Is A Big Victory For Fossil Fuel Companies

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On the 14th of July 2021, the EU Commission published its proposal for dealing with the climate crises and biodiversity crises, using money made available to counter the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mix of climate crises, biodiversity crises, and economic recovery makes this packet something where many people find bits to be happy about and many people find bits not to be happy about.

  • The economic recovery is high priority, very short term.
  • The climate crises is ultimate priority, very short term.
  • The biodiversity is medium priority, medium to long term.

With that last classification, many people will get very angry. But it is a task that will take our attention for the coming centuries. Getting one or two years delayed in formulating policies, writing laws, and reaching consensus is not the biggest problem. The realization that we should start doing it, that we should keep doing it for as long as we are the custodians of life on Earth, that is the hardest part. It is something that can not be, even a tiny little bit for your special case, sacrificed for convenience or financial gain.

The second classification about climate change is even harder to understand for most people. Species are disappearing today, to be never seen again. The climate is something that will last centuries from now. How can it have a higher priority?

Catastrophic climate change is already happening today. It is killing people in heatwaves and floods today — literally, today. If we do not succeed to halt the growth of the greenhouse gas layer in this decade for the most part, mopping up the rest of the pollution sources in the next decade, biodiversity does not matter anymore. We will likely go to an Earth with a completely different biotope, one where there is no place for mammals.

Without mammals in the mix, there will be room for many thousands, if not millions, of new species on earth. Biodiversity will be saved, but not as we envision it today.

Economic recovery is always a very short-term action. For the economic problems caused by the coronavirus measures, immediate relief is needed. Companies should not go broke and people should not get unemployed because of what is essentially a natural disaster.

That the money for the economic recovery is used to accelerate the necessary transition to a clean/green economy is logical. Why spend money to rebuild what we were planning to demolish. I mean, the fossil fuel–based economy has to go. No reason to waste money in preserving it.

Logical, but not what many stakeholders of the fossil industry would like to see. They have dreams of transitioning the economy to greener fossil fuels. The previous attempt to switch to clean diesel failed, but that is not a reason to give up and go find a new career. There is still the fuel of the future, hydrogen. It is preferably made from natural gas (preferably for them, not for us), and in the long run with electricity from nuclear reactors, through a future electrolysis process.

Convincing policymakers that hydrogen (green in the future) is essential for road transport will delay the growth of battery electric vehicles — those pesky toys that do so much harm to the automotive industry and can drive on electricity from the solar cells on one’s roof.

These goals in the EU Green Deal proposal — not nearly large enough (“fossil fuel friendly,” you might say) — are:

  • A 600kW station every 60 kilometers along European highways for light vehicles by 2030 (2*150kW by 2025 and 4*150kW by 2030).
  • A 3500kW station every 60 kilometers along European highways for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles in 2030 (perhaps 5*700kW?).
  • A hydrogen station every 150 kilometers for ???????.
Image courtesy of Fastned

Currently, the fastest charging is at 175 kW or 250 kW for 350V–400V batteries. Double that for 800V batteries. A two-plug 150kW each station every 60 kilometers is probably sufficient in Northern Sweden and Lapland. Between 2025 and 2030, the number of BEVs on the roads will multiply by four (increase by 300%) at least. I expect Tesla alone to offer more stations with more plugs long before 2030.

Trucks have charging at their home depot, or are long-haul trucks charging on the road? (Okay, this is a bit simplified.) The Tesla Semi uses about 1.25 kWh/km. The charge time of the truck can be booked as the mandatory rest time of the driver. The 1 MW or 1.2 MW chargers that are now discussed are a reflection of this reality.

Truckers like to combine their rest time with their lunch or dinner break. This creates high demand for many plugs around these times with low demand during normal trucking times. Logistics is a commercial business. It will create the needed charging infrastructure via demand and supply. Selling electricity and a warm meal is the name of the game.

Local governments need to be prepared to facilitate the permitting process and plan the grid connections. Each station (both for light-duty vehicles and medium-/heavy-duty vehicles) should be planned for a 2MW–8MW connection or more. Building the transport line between the charging station and the existing grid is very expensive.

For the chargers, the most important metric is missing. That is the number of plugs needed at each station. For this, an analysis of the traffic volumes on the European roads is needed. It would show that many roads will need a charging station every 30 kilometers with 8 to 20 plugs.

In Europe, many have free travel in their company cars. Company cars are new, and after 2025, likely all electric. While the complete European car fleet will likely take 20+ years to replace, the fleet traveling on highways will be replaced in about 6 years. Due to less range, a BEV will charge more often than a fossil fuel vehicle makes a tank stop, at least twice as often. It will also keep a charging space longer occupied than a gas pump will be occupied — for ease of computation, double the time.

By 2030, at least half the fleet on the highways will be BEV. That means that half the gas pumps have to be replaced by four times that number of charging plugs. We have an awful lot more than four gas pumps every 60 kilometers of highway. The European Automobile Industry (ACEA) has even explained that the progress in selling BEVs is limited by the buildout of the infrastructure on the ground. When the EU comes with an ambitious plan for the car market, an even more ambitious infrastructure plan should accompany it to make it reality.

The fossil fuel industry will be very grateful for this ridiculous lowball number for highway charging stations. There will never be enough plugs for the yearly mass migrations to the sun and the snow. But that is only about 6 weekends each year. It is like the airlines never having enough seats for Thanksgiving weekend in the USA. Sizing to the exception is impossible, but we can aim to have enough in the rest of the year.

IONITY Charging Station
Image courtesy of IONITY.

There is NO metric for the hydrogen station. Probably the lobbyists know that there won’t be customers. It is only about getting subsidies for the uneconomical stations and slowing the transition to fully electric ones. It is just a distraction. The well-to-wheel energy need is too clear a case to expect any hydrogen ever playing a role in road transport.

There are a number of lofty goals for hydrogen production. It should get at volume soon, and 50% of the green hydrogen should be renewable by 2030. Makes one think — what is non-renewable green hydrogen? I can only think of hydrogen fused into helium as not renewable. That would liberate a lot of energy, by the way.

Photo by Cynthia Shahan, CleanTechnica

Another way of temporizing what the market is doing is setting goals for public chargers that are too low. These are mostly Level 2 chargers for people without home charging.

  • 2025 – 1 million
  • 2030 – 3.5 million
  • 2040 – 11.4 million
  • 2050 – 16.3 million

Either those civil servants in Brussel are math-illiterate, or they think we are. The total for the EU in 2025 is just twice what the home country of the main writers of the deal plan to build by that year. The 2030 number is about three times the number in their home country. These math-illiterate people are Commissioner Timmermans and his chief-of-staff Samson, both Dutch.

Before he became chief-of-staff, Samson was one of the authors of the Dutch Klimaatakkoord, where the numbers of Dutch planned chargers can be found.

The EU is over 25 times the population of the Netherlands, and many more times the size. The Dutch numbers are from before the more ambitious goals and the rise in BEV sales in the last two years. In another article, I discussed why they are too low. With over a million chargers for the Netherlands alone in 2030, there is only a goal of 2.5 million chargers for the rest of the EU.  … Somebody is math challenged, and it ain’t me. In my very humble and biased opinion, that number needs an extra zero. And then some.

While greenwashing their actions, the EU commission is applying the brakes at full force. The fossil fuel lobby was successful.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 280 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen