Electrification is a necessary step in decarbonising EU transport sector

Written by Henna Virkkunen on 9 November 2017 in Opinion

Europe won’t reach its climate change goals without reducing the transport sector’s emissions, and electrification is a necessary step in this direction, says Henna Virkkunen.

Henna Virkkunen | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

Electrification is a necessary step in decarbonising the EU’s transport sector and meeting Europe’s climate goals. Currently, the transport sector is 94 per cent dependent on oil and accounts for 25 per cent of all CO2 emissions in Europe.

Despite our collective e­fforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, they have actually increased since 1990; the measures taken have been insufficient.

We must therefore focus on combining the most e­ffective measures available in order to meet our targets. The good news is that several low-emission options are available, such as electricity, advanced biofuels, hydrogen and LNG.


Recently, there have been great advancements in battery technology; almost all car manufacturers now produce electric vehicles.

While sales of these are increasing, it is essential to boost their deployment.

According to the latest estimates, electric cars could make up a quarter of the world’s vehicles by 2040. However, they represented only 1.2 per cent of all new cars sold in the EU in 2015.

In order to achieve cleaner, competitive and connected mobility, we need standards, supporting measures and a common framework at EU level.

Still, it’s clear that Europe will have to rely on conventional vehicles while more sustainable technologies are being developed.

Renewable alternative fuels are a rapid and e­ffective way to cut emissions, therefore it is important to support their deployment as a short- and medium-term solution.

The electrification of transport poses both challenges and opportunities. It is a way of not only reducing CO2 emissions, but also particle emissions and noise pollution in urban areas.

The deployment of electric cars, vans and buses used in urban transport is certainly closer than the electrification of trucks, coaches, ships and planes, as these remain a matter of further research.

To speed up the electrification of transport, the infrastructure for the supply of energy must be reliable, reachable and a­ffordable.

The Commission’s low-emission mobility proposal introduces ways to scale up the use of renewable electricity for transport. It stresses the need for better infrastructure for charging, interoperability and EU-wide standardisation for electro-mobility.

In its mobility package, the Commission proposes - among other things - that zero-emission cars get a mandatory 75 per cent reduction from road charges. The energy performance of buildings directive aims at the large-scale deployment of charging points in non-residential and residential buildings.

These are necessary steps in right direction. Member states can encourage consumers to use zero and low-emission vehicles by, for example, o­ffering purchasing subsidies, lowering taxation for electric vehicles and increasing taxes on fossil fuel use.

It is important that incentives are created for both manufacturers and potential users.

The largest potential to reduce emissions comes from technological options to improve the energy efficiency of vehicles.

The second largest potential comes from renewable fuels and energy carriers. The focus should be on developing electric vehicles and advanced biofuels, and making the transport system more efficient.

Reducing the cost of battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles is also needed.

More innovation, and therefore more investments in research and innovation, are necessary to speed up this process.

About the author

Henna Virkkunen (EPP, FI) is a member of Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee


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