How to make alternative fuels and 'Fit-for-55' work for a better transport policy

The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation and the ‘Fit-for-55’ package are complementary – both will shape the EU’s future climate and mobility ambitions, writes Jens Gieseke
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By Jens Gieseke

Jens Gieseke (DE, EPP) is Parliament’s rapporteur on the revision of the Trans-European Transport Network

07 Mar 2022

With the ‘Fit-For-55’ package, we are currently working on one of the largest legislative packages in the history of this Parliament. The decisions that we will take in the coming months will affect all our lives. We have to deliver on emission reductions while ensuring that the economy can manage the social transition.

In the EPP, I am responsible for two of the legislative proposals of the package: the regulation setting CO2 emission performance standards for cars and light commercial vehicles and the deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).

Nevertheless, the Fit-for-55 proposals were published by the Commission as a package and should be treated as such. The interrelations between the individual proposals and the reciprocal effects of individual provisions are just too great. 

“The decisions that we will take in the coming months will affect all our lives. We have to deliver on emission reductions whilst ensuring that the economy can manage the social transition”

For me as AFIR rapporteur, it is important that we are ambitious in developing the infrastructure. If we set more demanding CO2 targets, we have to be more ambitious on the infrastructure rollout. This is because the current state of infrastructure is insufficient. Yes, the former Directive (2014/94/EU) has led to small improvements, but the shortcomings of the current policy framework are clear. In the absence of binding methodologies for Member States to calculate targets and adopt measures, the level of ambition varies widely. For example, 70 per cent of the charging points in the EU can be found in only three countries (the Netherlands, France and Germany). 

However, we want and need a network that is accessible to all European citizens. That is why it is good that we have now changed the legal form of the legislation into a regulation. In this way, we can help ensure that the expansion really takes place all over Europe. 

We have to address the sometimes still justified fears of a lack of charging stations and a lack of range for cars. At the same time, we should also prevent stranded assets and thus a waste of public money. After all, we cannot afford to have European-mandated infrastructure going completely unused. We must therefore find a way to combine the required increase in the level of ambition with the political maxim of the prudent use of public funds.

Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. Therefore, in order to combat this, we should make use of all available technological solutions. In so doing so, we need to uphold the principle of technological neutrality. For me, it is clear that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to mobility. 

In the future, low-emission fuels will continue to play an important role alongside electromobility, something that will apply to all modes of transport. We should therefore provide the necessary infrastructure for this. This way, we can also drive forward the decarbonisation of the existing fleet and keep the door open to further innovations.

“The interrelations between the individual proposals and the reciprocal effects of individual provisions are just too great”

I fully reject a ban on specific technologies. Instead, we should focus on ensuring the appropriate framework conditions for research and development here in Europe. The competition for the best ideas needs room to breathe. Only by providing that room can we continue to realise the economic growth in Europe that we urgently need. The change towards a sustainable society will cost a lot of money, but first has to be earned.

Concerning the AFIR, the question of the accessibility of the network is of key importance. Users will only change their behaviour if it is as easy as possible to use the network in daily life. This starts with the question of the distance between the charging, refuelling stations, continues with the methodology of payments and ends with the responsibility for the maintenance of the facilities.

Charging electric cars or refuelling sustainable fuels must be as convenient as refuelling with fossil fuels is today. Transparency also plays a role in this context; the consumer should know from the outset what price they will pay to charge or refuel. Here, the Commission’s proposal still needs improvement. I will therefore propose the uniform display of the price in price per kWh.

On infrastructure, the European Union still has to deliver. I am currently preparing my amendments to the AFIR. My dual role as EPP rapporteur for the CO2 dossier and the AFIR helps a great deal. Changes in one dossier will inevitably lead to changes in the other. Negotiations with the AFIR rapporteurs of the other groups will soon start.