Moving up a gear – the EU clean and smart mobility supported by standards
The way we move is one of Europe’s biggest environmental challenges: transport represents 27% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. To achieve climate neutrality, we urgently need a shift to zero-emission transport. Our new paper shows how this crucial change can be achieved through a mix of targeted policy and standardisation initiatives, such as the upcoming EU Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.
It goes without saying that if we cannot walk or cycle, and where public transport fails, electric vehicles should become the norm. Thankfully, the urgently needed shift to EVs is in the making. In 2019, 3.6% of new cars sold in Europe were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or battery-electric vehicles, and between July and September EVs even accounted for 9,9% of car sales In the past 5 years EV sales have increased by 50% on average every year. This number is forecast to keep on growing significantly in the next decade as battery costs decrease, charging infrastructure expands, government incentives start to kick in, and manufacturers redesign cars so that they meet the more stringent emission rules in place.
That electric vehicle sales are on the rise is important and very positive, but we should not embrace the electrification of transport with our eyes closed. An electric vehicle revolution will have negative consequences for the planet if policymakers do not act now and tackle a number of outstanding transport challenges on the one hand, and foster important opportunities on the other, in particular related to batteries, tyres and charging systems.
The EU’s upcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy is the perfect opportunity for European policymakers to address these pressing environmental challenges, and ask standardisers to develop a number of standards that are still missing. Only by moving up a gear now in our electric transport policies can we accelerate the climate transition.
Batteries need a better design
A massive production of electric vehicles would generate indirect emissions from electricity production, not to mention the pollution and carbon footprint provoked by large-scale battery manufacturing. To avoid this, energy and material efficiency in battery production must improve, and the electricity used needs to be renewable. We need longer lasting batteries, strategies for more efficient battery reuse and recycling, as well as plans for sustainable and ethical sourcing of raw materials.
Tyres needs to be less polluting
Car tyres release tremendous amounts of microplastics into the environment as they wear. Policies need to urgently address this by forbidding tyres that degrade too quickly, designing them to shed less altogether, and providing information regarding wear levels to consumers and businesses through mandatory labels.
It’s all about smart charging
A surge in energy demand from EVs will put extra pressure on the grid which should, and can, be managed by enabling the EV fleet to charge smartly. This way, EVs will help stabilise the grid instead of causing overload problems. Smartly plugging EV batteries to the grid would also prompt wider use of renewable energy, while reducing the need for stationary batteries and costly grid reinforcements. But to enable smart charging, the necessary standards should first be mandated and finalised at European level.