February 21. 2024. 7:07

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EU reaches deal to boost charging infrastructure across the bloc


Charging infrastructure for clean vehicles will be ramped up across the EU following an agreement by legislators on Tuesday (28 March), paving the way for an increase in zero-emission vehicles.

The European Parliament and EU ministers reached a provisional agreement shortly before 2 am on Tuesday morning on the Alternative Fuels and Infrastructure Regulation, a key part of the EU’s so-called Fit for 55 climate laws package.

Under the agreement, charging stations for electric cars will be placed every 60 km along the EU’s main highways by 2026. Higher-powered chargers for trucks and buses must be rolled out on at least half of the EU’s core network every 120 km by 2028, while hydrogen refuelling stations will be installed at least every 200 km by 2031.

However, exemptions will be made for roads that experience low volumes of traffic, at the request of some member states. The text of the provisional agreement includes a review clause, which will evaluate the law in light of technological and market developments in the heavy-duty vehicles sector.

Under the deal, each EU member state must commit to a mandatory minimum infrastructure target, presenting the European Commission with a roadmap to reach its goal.

“The new rules will help to roll out the infrastructure for alternative fuels without further delay and ensure that driving and charging a new generation car is as simple and convenient as one that depends on petrol,” said Ismail Ertug, a German lawmaker with the centre-left S&D group and the Parliament’s chief negotiator.

In addition to road transport, the new law will also outline requirements for shore-side electricity supply in the maritime sector, and set rules for electricity supply to stationary aircraft.

Andreas Carlson, Swedish minister for infrastructure and housing and negotiator for EU member states, said the deal will ensure that Europeans “no longer have a reason to feel anxious about finding charging and refuelling stations [for] their electric or fuel-cell car”.

“The agreement will send a clear signal to citizens and other stakeholders that user-friendly recharging infrastructure and refuelling stations for alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, will be installed throughout the EU. This means that more public recharging capacity will be available on the streets in urban areas as well along the motorways,” he said.

Last night’s deal represents an informal agreement between the bloc’s co-legislators, the European Parliament and Council. The deal will now need to be formally agreed upon by both institutions before becoming law.

Simplifying payment

One of the chief criticisms among consumers of Europe’s current charging infrastructure is that payment is more complicated than refuelling a petrol or diesel car, with separate subscription services required for each charging point brand.

Legislators sought to simplify the experience and boost interoperability, mandating minimum payment options, price transparency and agreed standards on information that must be provided to customers.

Each charging station must offer consumers the option to pay by debit or credit card, or, in certain cases, using a QR code, removing the need to take out a subscription.

Companies must also display the cost of recharging in a way that is easily comprehensible and comparable, such as per kWh or per minute.

Reactions

The centre-right EPP, the European Parliament’s largest political group, welcomed the agreement, calling the provision of charging infrastructure “the be-all and end-all” to cut transport emissions.

“In the future, a lack of refuelling stations or charging stations must no longer be a reason for not travelling. If these goals are implemented as planned, the fear of not reaching the destination will no longer play a role,” said MEP Jens Gieseke.

Transport operators represented by the European Clean Trucking Alliance welcomed the provisional agreement, calling it a necessary step to decarbonise road transport.

“Road transport operators are ready to transition all their operations to zero-emission – even long-distance trucking,” said Kristin Kahl, ECTA spokesperson. “The AFIR is an elementary law to remove the operational hurdle and can ensure that zero-emission trucks are able to transport goods emission-free from one Member State to another seamlessly.”

The EU’s climate chief Frans Timmermans said the deal will help to boost drivers’ confidence that they can travel with clean vehicles throughout the continent.

“The transition to zero-emission mobility has to be supported by the right infrastructure, ready for you when you need it, where you need it,” he said.