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No clean mobility for all Europeans with Commission's Mobility Strategy - EBA

Responding to the European Commission's new Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Biogas Association (EBA) says that the strategy is a major setback and will not help the EU deliver the critical decarbonization of transport. The lack of support for renewable fuels will jeopardize transport decarbonization and hamper climate-neutrality by 2050 goals. An accurate zero-emissions approach to mobility must consider the carbon footprint of the vehicles across their overall lifecycle.

Responding to the European Commission’s new Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Biogas Association (EBA) says that the strategy is a major setback and will not help the EU deliver the critical decarbonization of transport. The lack of support for renewable fuels will jeopardize transport decarbonization and hamper climate-neutrality by 2050 goals. An accurate zero-emissions approach to mobility must consider the carbon footprint of the vehicles across their overall lifecycle.

The European transport sector accounts for around 20 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The new Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, presented by the European Commission (EC) on December 9, 2020, will not help the EU deliver the critical decarbonization of transport the European Biogas Association (EBA) says.

The decarbonization of transport is key for the success of the European Green Deal. The Mobility Strategy should avoid any contradictions with other core policies of this plan to make the EU economy sustainable and reach climate-neutrality. It must be aligned with the implementation of a smart sector integration, as well as with the efforts to find circular and local solutions for decarbonization.

Instead, the EBA suggests picking the low-hanging fruits by supporting alternatives already available.

Cost-effective and swift decarbonisation will be only feasible with the deployment of all renewable energies and technologies alike. In the clean mobility equation, all renewable alternative fuels and their corresponding technologies and infrastructures need equal support to drastically reduce emissions by 90 percent in 2050. Overlooking the essential role of advanced biofuels in driving swift decarbonisation of transport will hamper the development of renewable fuels. This will put at risk one of the industries that are helping Europe reach climate-neutrality by 2050. It will also put an unnecessary burden on the future availability of green electricity to decarbonise the EU economy, the EBA said in a statement.

Favours electrification and hydrogen

Despite claiming for a technology-neutral approach to decarbonization, the Commission’s Strategy clearly outlines electricity and hydrogen as a priority option to decarbonize mobility. Greening current electricity consumption is, however, already a challenge – in 2018, only 33 percent of EU electricity came from renewable energy.

Thus if the source of energy to power electric vehicles (EVs) does not come from renewable sources, their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be much higher than shown in a tailpipe emissions approach, as evidenced in a recently published study “Review and Meta-Analysis of EVs: Embodied Emissions and Environmental Breakeven“.

Hydrogen, according to the European Commission, currently represents a modest fraction of the global and EU energy mix and is still largely produced from fossil fuels. So it is far from certain that green electricity and hydrogen mobility will be able to answer to the different usages at an acceptable cost and ad-hoc servicing level in the long term.

Biomethane a market-ready renewable transportation fuel

The EBA highlights that renewable and low-carbon fuels, such as biomethane, are already available on the marketplace and fit for use within the existing transport infrastructure.

E.ON’s recently opened bioCNG public refueling station at its Högbytorp facility in Stockholm, Sweden.

Biomethane is already being used in light passenger vehicles as bioCNG, and in heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) such as busses and truck fleets. In the latter, bioLNG is also being used in long-haul road transport and is also seen as one of the few viable options to decarbonize shipping.

In unelectrified rail transport, diesel-powered locomotives can use bioCNG or bioLNG as an alternative renewable fuel. In addition, these renewable fuels are already complying with the strict criteria under the EU Renewable Energy Directive ensuring they are produced sustainably.

In line with a circular economy approach, biomethane is additionally contributing to reducing emissions from waste management and agriculture. Those sectors are two major sources of GHG emissions, as recognized by the recently presented EU Methane Strategy.

Europe should be proud of the merits of its local biomethane production, said the EBA.

According to the EBA, internal combustion engines (ICE) powered by biomethane have similar or even lower GHG emissions footprint than vehicles powered by green electricity. An EBA study collected 11 comparative studies analyzing transport emissions per type of fuel, which prove that biomethane is clearly one of the most climate-friendly fuel options able to reach even below zero levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

However, these benefits are not accounted for in the tailpipe approach. Therefore the EU needs an accurate life-cycle approach to promote only no-regret options.

Supporting the higher deployment of renewable fuels will also contribute to making all transport modes more sustainable, available to European citizens in all geographies and at all income levels, leaving no one behind. This intention of the Commission to ‘make this new mobility affordable and accessible in all regions and for all passengers’ is clearly in contradiction with the push for electricity and hydrogen only which will not be affordable to all Europeans at any time soon, the EBA concluded.

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