What Should Have Been In The EU “FIT for 55” Declaration About Transport But Was Not

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Three weeks ago, I wrote what was wrong with the EU “Fit for 55” plans as presented by EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans. Writing that it is wrong or not good enough is easy. Rewriting his speech with more sensible measures is the better way to show what is needed. What follows is the speech he should have given.

Thank you very much, President.

And let me start by thanking you, all my colleagues who are present, and the ones who are not, and especially the Commission’s staff for an incredible effort over the last couple of months. This is really epic, what our colleagues were able to offer us in terms of quality, in terms of depth, in terms of analysis.

And thanks to the industry lobbying groups and research institutes from the oil and gas industry, the automotive industry, and the shipping and airlines industries for showing us what should not be in our “Fit for 55” package. We have used the input from all and focused on the interests of the citizens of the EU and the wellbeing of the Earth.

So I believe we now have a package that can take us to our goal, which is now a legal obligation of reducing our emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990, which will set us on a path of climate neutrality by 2050. Or much sooner when we see how.

As the President said, there is no time to waste. People are dying in Northwest Canada, because it’s 50 degrees Celsius there. Siberia has reached temperatures over 35 degrees. Central Europe is over 40 degrees. We saw tornadoes in the Czech Republic — who would ever have thought of that? The recent flooding just 200 kilometers to the east was not expected, even before it got really bad.

In this package, there are a number of focus areas. The main are forestry, building, transportation, and industry. The most important tool will be our Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The transportation sector is the most clear-cut and easiest from a governing point of view. The tax exemptions for transport by air and water should be a thing of the past. The fuel taxes should be brought under the same regime that is applied for all other transport fuels.

For Commercial Air Transport, options for completely zero-emission flying are not in the pipeline before 2050. Better efficiency and synthetic fuels, encouraged by the ETS, is the best we can do for long-haul, mostly intercontinental, flights. For travel within the EU, a different pricing mechanism will shift most travelling over distances below 1,500 kilometers to high-speed rail.

For general aviation, the shift to fully electric flying will start this decade, and emission will be a thing of the past by 2050. This is made possible by our ETS and opening airports for electric flying only.

Inland shipping is not yet clear in terms of technology. Battery electric is slightly in the lead at the moment, but hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have some strong cases for use on the biggest routes. The market will sort this out. ETS will make sure not too much time will be lost with planning and building coalitions around favored solutions.

For open sea/ocean shipping, there is no alternative for the current technology, but there are alternatives for the fuels used. The EU ports will be closed as far as possible for ships using the dirty fuels now popular because of price.

The only bunker options in the EU will be the cleaner, synthetic fuels that will replace the heavy fuel oil that is currently used. Special taxes will make bunkering in low-cost harbors outside the EU, to avoid bunkering in the EU, very unattractive.

That leaves road transport. This is really the low-hanging fruit of the Green Deal. The transport sector is transitioning very fast to pure battery electric vehicles (BEV). Early in the second half of this decade, the market share of BEVs in Northwestern Europe will reach over 90%. In the rest of the EU, that will be the case before 2030.

Just like the use of diesel engines in private cars, much depends on the regulations and incentives we put in place. The USA and Japan didn’t have notably different drivers, different roads, or different use cases, but there were hardly any diesel cars put onto the roads in the USA and Japan. The difference was government regulations and taxations.

The CAFE regulations that spurred on the European BEV market to get it to grow phenomenally was based on another automotive industry than we have today. It was modelled on the lifecycle of ICE vehicles. The first hurdle was to reach the 2020 emission standard. After that the industry got 5 years to develop the next generation of lighter, more efficient, cleaner fossil fuel vehicles — new engines and powertrains that could comply with the 2025 standards. That was followed by another 5 years to reach the 2030 levels, perhaps with the help of hybrid or hydrogen technology. What technologies would be available and used was not clear when this regulation was devised.

Now the automotive industry and the market are very clear as far as what the future technology will be. The big steps in CAFE emission norms are not fit for the current transition from ICE powertrains to battery electric powertrains. The current transition requires many smaller steps to gradually shift from ICEV to BEV. From 2022 onward, the emission norm should be lowered each year by 5grCO2/km. In 2035, it should become 0grCO2/km.

The WLTP system was designed to compare the ICEV offerings of different OEMs easily. It was not designed to predict real-world emissions of PHEVs, especially not when the driver does not pay for the kilometers driven and the fuel consumed. We will start a study to determine the realistic real-world emissions of PHEVs. We will use a large sample, probably using the cars’ management computer to log the driving and type of energy use. This study will produce results before the end of 2023. In 2024, PHEV policies will be based on realistic real-world emissions determined by this study.

For BEVs to be able to replace fossil fuel vehicles in most or all use cases, we must put regulations in place to encourage the carmakers to create BEVs capable of performing in all the cases people are using their cars. In other markets, the average yearly usage is about 52 times the normal weekly usage. The main function of cars is to commute and do your shopping, and perhaps also drive kids around.

In Europe, the most important function of most cars is enabling leisure activities. It is for holidays, vacations, visiting relatives and friends too far to visit by public transport or bicycle. It is not simply the range for the commute and shopping, but how well the car can travel, fully loaded, often with a caravan or bicycles on the tow hook — even with a ski-box or surfboard on the roof. Most current A-segment and B-segment BEVs are literally city-only cars, not best-in-city cars. They are not able to replace their ICE predecessors that were very able to perform these duties when required.

Even most BEVs in the C- and D-segment do not have the range and charging capacity required. To be counted for the CAFE emission norms, from 2023 onward, BEVs should have to comply with minimum standards that will become more stringent each year. In 2023, it will be a battery size of 40kWh and charging at 2C until 50% State of Charge (SoC).

The following 3 years, the battery size requirement will increase by 10kWh per year, and then 3 years of increasing by 5kWh each year. The charging requirement will increase the SoC at which it has to be above 2C by 2% each year for 5 years, growing to 60% SoC.

Only counting the more all-round capable BEVs as compensation for automakers’ fossil fuel vehicle (FFV) emissions will encourage the carmakers to offer BEVs that can replace ICEVs in more demanding roles. There will still be a market for BEVs that have smaller batteries or slower charging. Carmakers that ignore that market will see other companies filling that demand.

This rewrite of the CAFE regulation was the hard part. What is needed to charge this future fleet on European roads is much easier for us.

The Netherlands has produced a “Climate Agreement” after consulting with all the stakeholders. Part of this agreement is “The National Charging Infrastructure Agenda.” The institutions and stakeholders involved in writing this agenda are among the most knowledgeable in the EU. They are what made the Netherlands the world’s EV charging paradise. Extrapolating their findings to the complete EU is not too difficult. To start, the 2014 Alternate Fuel Infrastructure Directive (AFID) should be replaced by a regulation. (A directive is an order to member states to alter national laws. A regulation is an EU law that is enforceable in all member states.)

The EU car market is between 30 times and 40 times the Dutch car market. Multiplying the Dutch goals by 25 gives a clear minimum of what is needed. The EU needs a minimum of 25,000,000 (25 million) public and semi-public level-2 AC chargers and 250,000 level-3 DC chargers by 2030. All highways and main roads need a charging station with at least four 350kW chargers every 60 km by 2025. This will increase to stations with 6 chargers every 30 km by 2030. If the market transition goes faster than is currently anticipated, these numbers will need to be raised. Comparable infrastructure for charging electric trucks will be specified.

The amount of electricity this transition requires is dependent on the way the cars charge. If the grid is supposed to deliver the capacity a charging car can handle at the moment a car is plugged in, it will need costly, big upgrades. Many cars will be plugged in when drivers get home from work, followed by even more demand when all the electric cooking appliances start preparing food as well. With smart charging, this can be solved. Besides the extra electricity that is needed for heating, cooling, and cooking, there is hardly any extra electricity needed for smart charging. This is because charging can be done with a lower priority on the available grid capacity. Protocols and technology are being developed and initial results are promising.

Parallel to the transition of the transport sector to electric driving, the energy sector will transition to renewable energy. We can transition to 100% wind, water, and solar power, with batteries to handle the intermittence. If most of the BEVs plugged into the smart grid using a smart charger make 1% to 2% of their battery capacity available to the grid operator, the grid will be more stable than we can now imagine — because that is a distributed virtual power plant with a capacity of about 25 GWh local to all grid segments.

President, commissioners, collaborators, we can do it. The goal of 55% reduction in 2030 is possible. If the market is ignoring us and following its own agenda, moving faster, 65% is more likely. Let’s get to work.

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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