While the European Union is calling for the transport sector to become carbon neutral, Central and Eastern Europe finds itself having a lot of potential but risks to be left behind.
The Polish Alternative Fuels Association and the Slovak Electric Vehicle Association launched the CEE Green Transport Initiative, a cooperation platform that aims to advance the development of zero-emission road transport in CEE, meaning the electrification of road transport.
Indeed, according to the Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), although the global auto industry suffered a contraction in 2020, the electric car market saw an expansion: a record 3 million new electric cars were registered in 2020 and for the first time Europe overtook China as the centre of the global electric car market. By 2030 there could be something like 145 million electric cars, vans, heavy trucks and buses worldwide.
Decarbonising the transport sector is a crucial aspect if we want to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In fact, it contributes to around one-quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Also, it contributes to around 5 per cent of the EU GDP and employs more than 10 million people.
Very good commitments came out last year, starting from the Smart Mobility Strategy launched by the European Commission last December and more recently welcomed by the Council as well. The goal is to create the sustainable, smart and resilient mobility system of the future. According to this Strategy, by 2030, at least 30 million zero-emission cars will be in operation and by 2050, nearly all will be zero-emission. However, these cars on Europe’s roads will be going nowhere without parallel investment in public and private infrastructure as Europe’s existing EV charging points are well below target.
Especially CEE is lagging behind, due to historical reasons, economic reasons, delayed policies. And lagging behind is something that is simply not accepted by the EU. One of the core aspects of the European Green Deal is the Just Transition which means to not leave anyone behind.
Some positive signs are emerging within the region itself. In the Czech Republic, there are more than 6,000 electric cars currently registered, of which 3,300 were added last year. The Hungarian market also expanded and it launched the first Green Bus program. Romania has gained approval for a huge support scheme to develop a network of recharging stations that will cover the entire country. And Poland plans to put one million electric vehicles on Polish roads by 2025 added to the fact that the country is already home to one of the largest battery plants in Europe.
The Polish Alternative Fuels Association and the Slovak Electric Vehicle Association believe that active players, contributors and developers of the market in CEE, have the best awareness of the situation in these countries. They noted a high demand for cleaner air, cleaner energy and cleaner transport options which should lead to ambitious development and deployment of e-mobility solutions and zero-emissions transport in the region.
“Therefore, it is our shared objective to work together to develop and accelerate the growth of a zero-emission road transport network and generate overall support for all zero-emission, electric road transport activities, ventures and initiatives to achieve the cleaner future we know is possible,” the CEE GTI statement reads. “Moreover, we strive to develop the awareness of the societies in our region about the ongoing and accelerating revolution in transport, strongly related to the climate and the future of the entire planet.”
In particular, the initiative aims to work on supporting the implementation of State policies related to the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Fit for 55 package in the field of transport and mobility solutions, addressing the need to develop and deploy zero-emission technologies and exploiting their potential in driving job growth and local economic development and value creation. It also aims to support the development of various financial and subsidy opportunities for the region, in terms of fostering a new transport sector of the economy, relying on zero-emission technologies, as well as awakening the innovative and responsible habits of the society.
“We plan to develop the initiative in the current decade and reach a common, standardised level of development in our region by 2030, where our States will not be left behind by the electrification taking place throughout Europe and be able to boast markets characterised by majority shares of low- and zero-emission vehicles in their fleets and a charging infrastructure measured in tenfold or hundredfold orders of magnitude against what is discernible today,” continues the statement.
Also Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations shared the importance of not creating a two-speed Europe in terms of electrification of road transport.
“CEE can play a leading role in energy transition including areas like batteries and the development of electric vehicles,” he said during the launch of the initiative. “It goes hand in hand with measures taken on a European level such as the RRF, with a 750 billion euros budget it is a one in a lifetime opportunity to emerge stronger from the pandemic, with a more sustainable economy. National plans which are being approved as we speak are essential to accelerate the green and digital transition.”
Indeed, one of the flagship areas of the new facility is the development of the charging infrastructure.
“As the e-mobility market takes up in Europe, the charging infrastructure must follow suit,” Mr Šefčovič continued. “We have to make sure that by the end of this decade at least 3 million charging points will be available across the EU and it has to be done in a geographically balanced way, as so far 75 per cent of the charging capacity is located in three countries.”
That’s why the Polish Alternative Fuels Association and the Slovak Electric Vehicle Association are welcoming all parties interested in pursuing the goals manifested by the CEE GTI to sign the statement of cooperation and support their endeavour to achieve those goals through position papers, analyses, reports, communications and advocacy activities. All to influence the legislative process and overall planning perspective at the EU level.