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Low-carbon fuels crucial to achieving EU clean mobility goals, new study shows

With a high percentage of cars with internal combustion (IC) engines that will still be on Europe’s roads for decades, Europe’s push to decarbonise road transport and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would benefit significantly from the use of low-carbon fuels such as renewable ethanol, according to a new report on the makeup and emissions of the EU auto fleet for the coming decades.

Over 16 percent of all fuel used on Swedish roads during the first half of 2016 were renewable.

Although EU’s Clean Mobility Package places emphasis on electric vehicles (EV’s), a high percentage of LDV’s such as passenger cars in Europe will still have internal combustion engines 2020 – 2050. Thus low carbon liquid biofuels such as ethanol could provide additional GHG reductions that would otherwise not be achieved according to a new study.

While the EU’s current Clean Mobility Package (CMP) places a high emphasis on electric vehicles (EV’s) as a solution for reducing road transport emissions, the new findings confirm low-carbon fuels are essential to achieving decarbonisation objectives in the medium- to long-term.

Commissioned by the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), the study, “Europe’s Clean Mobility Outlook: Scenarios for the EU light-duty vehicle fleet, associated energy needs and emissions, 2020-2050”, was carried out by independent consultancy firm Ricardo Energy & Environment.

The study assesses the potential contribution of low carbon fuels in decarbonising conventionally fuelled light-duty vehicles (LDVs) – passenger cars and vans – from 2020-2050 in the context of the European Commission’s 2nd Clean Mobility Package (CMP), and the EU’s medium- and long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

It found that use of low-carbon fuels like renewable EU ethanol could provide additional GHG reductions that would otherwise not be achieved and could also mitigate for potential uncertainty in the longer-term GHG intensity of electricity.

The study examined three possible scenarios for the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe. Even under the most ambitious scenario, EVs would make up 15.7 percent of the EU passenger car fleet and 40 percent of new passenger car sales in 2030.

Emmanuel Desplechin has been appointed new Secretary General of ePURE replacing Robert Wright (photo courtesy ePURE).

“This study clearly shows that betting only on one solution is not enough to decarbonise transport: we need a variety of tools to decarbonise the majority of existing and future fleet still running on liquid fuels. Electric vehicles will bring great benefits to transport, but they cannot do the whole job. Europe needs a mix that includes sustainably produced low-carbon fuels such as ethanol,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General of ePURE (photo courtesy ePURE).

Importantly, the study also looked at the related direct and Well-To-Wheels GHG emissions of these different scenarios depending on the amount of low-carbon fuels in the energy mix.

The study clearly states that “the additional [carbon] savings generated by the increased use of low-carbon fuels, mean that even with low electrification rates, reductions achieved under a low-carbon fuels scenario are greater than a scenario with high electrification but no increased use of low-carbon fuels. This is true even if electricity decarbonises more rapidly than in the reference scenario.”

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