The “Fit for 55” plan calls for a ban on the sale of new cars powered by combustion and hybrid engines in 2035. The future of the automobile will therefore be 100% electric. “This is a major step forward on the part of the European Commission, and climate change is such that we will have to go faster,” commented Claude Turmes, energy and regional planning minister.
The European ambition is coming up against reality, however, particularly in terms of recharging infrastructure. Even if 2030 and 2035 seem a long way off, for the moment the number of recharging points is well below the European action plan of 2017. As a reminder, the European Court of Auditors recently estimated that 3,000 charging points per week would need to be installed in Europe to reach the initial target.
In its Fit for 55 plan, the European Commission aims to reach 3.5 million charging points by 2030. The Belgian and Luxembourg Federation of the Automobile and Cycle Industry (Febiac) considers this number to be largely insufficient. “According to our estimates, a further reduction in CO2 emissions from cars by 50% in 2030 requires more than six million public charging points,” comments Guido Savi, a member of Febiac, who nevertheless believes that Luxembourg is already well equipped in this respect. For the moment, the Chargy network has just under 500 operational charging points out of the 800 planned by the government for 2020.
Aware of the problem, the commission wants to require member states to install electric charging points every 60 kilometres, and even hydrogen refuelling points every 150 kilometres.
A future subsidy for companies
“This is a step in the right direction and I agree with the European Commission’s position on this point,” Claude Turmes continued. “The fear of driving a long distance without finding a charging station will disappear. This new European regulation will impose a minimum number of charging points for cars, but also for trucks, which is a novelty. The commission wants charging points for trucks on motorways from 2025. That is why, together with the minister for transport, François Bausch (Déi Gréng), we are going to start a study to find out how to strengthen the electricity network.”
But public charging stations will not be enough. The state also intends to (finally) encourage companies to invest in charging stations in their car parks. As a reminder, unlike private individuals, companies cannot apply for a subsidy to install them, and this installation is sometimes very costly. “We are in the process of finalising a subsidy programme called ‘Charge at work’ with the European Commission,” said Claude Turmes. “I hope to have the green light from the commission, but also from the ministry of the economy, before the end of the year so that every company that wants to install a charging point can be entitled to a subsidy.”
In addition to the charging stations, the minister reaffirmed the country’s desire to have a network of fast charging stations with the forthcoming installation of 88 SuperChargy stations by 2023. “But the public network will not be enough. Tomorrow, a petrol station or a company will be able to install fast charging stations. This week, the Losch group inaugurated its first fast station, and this is typically what we want to see repeated,” the minister stressed.
Manufacturers reject the single solution of electric vehicles
Regarding hydrogen charging points, the minister said he was working on a project in Bettembourg to set up an infrastructure dedicated mainly to trucks, but also to cars.
On the manufacturers’ side, the choice of relying solely on electric vehicles is strongly criticised. “In the context of the proposed technology restrictions from 2035 onwards, we urge all EU institutions to focus on innovation rather than imposing, and effectively banning, specific technologies,” said Oliver Zipse, president of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and head of BMW, in a press release. “It is important to understand that we are not against ambitious climate targets, but banning technologies available on the market and promoting a single solution is not a rational solution,” said Guido Savi.
It is not for companies and individuals to bear the burden.
“All existing solutions—plug-in hybrids (PHEV), full hybrids (HEV), battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen (FCEV)—should be considered in the climate transition. It is not the internal combustion engine that is harmful to the environment, but fuels of fossil origin. The development of renewable or synthetic fuels is an effective alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants,” he concluded.
Gerry Wagner, spokesperson for the House of Automobile (HOA), welcomed the news but said the country does not yet have the infrastructure to move fully towards 100% electric cars on its roads. “On the face of it, the European Commission is going in the right direction, but it is unfortunate that it is limited to electric. The good news is that the commission is aware of the need for charging stations and has stressed the need to do more in this area. I hope that Luxembourg will continue along this path and I think it is beginning to understand,” explained Wagner, adding: “We have indeed had discussions with the ministries concerned, but the problems remain the same. Namely problems with charging infrastructure, i.e. having the right electrical capacity in the right place. This requires colossal investments. The state must take responsibility for providing such infrastructure and it is not for companies and individuals to bear the burden.”