The Global View

With global car ownership set to double, EU eyes greener transport

The European Commission today launched a new strategy to encourage the production and adoption of clean, green cars, trucks and other vehicles across the continent, but the question remains: will it be enough to significantly reduce transport’s carbon footprint in the time needed?

The strategy calls for, among other things:

  • Europe-wide electric-car charging standards by 2011;
  • Improved testing and measurements to ensure that “CO2 and pollutant emissions are reduced under real-world driving conditions;”
  • Ongoing research into low-carbon fuels and clean and energy-efficient transport technologies;
  • New EU guidelines on financial incentives to encourage consumers to buy green vehicles in 2010;
  • Launch of an EU-wide electromobility demonstration project in 2011 to assess consumer behaviour and usage patterns and to encourage user awareness of electric transport technologies;
  • Working with the European Investment Bank to find ways to fund efforts to stimulate investment in infrastructure and services build-up for green vehicles.

European leaders have already set a goal of reducing transport-related carbon emissions by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050. Transportation currently accounts for about one quarter of the continent’s CO2 emissions.

Standing in the way of reducing transport’s carbon footprint, though, is one overwhelming statistic: the expectation that the global car fleet is likely to double over the next 20 years, from 800 million today to 1.6 billion in 2030. That means that the rest of the world will also have to move quickly on greener transport if the global vehicle emissions are to be kept in check, much less reduced.

“Green vehicles, including those capable of using electricity, hydrogen, biogas and liquid biofuels in high blends, are likely to contribute significantly to the Europe 2020 priorities of developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation (smart growth) and promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy (sustainable growth),” the new transport strategy states.

European leaders plan to revisit the strategy again in 2014 to “take stock of progress, to assess how the market and technologies have changed, and to recommend further action.”