Brussels (B), 30 June 2011.
The ‘Energy and Climate Change’ working group of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) met today to discuss both the opportunities and the challenges presented by the new technology of clean vehicles. The participants were offered the chance to test-drive an electric car being marketed by the automobile designer BMW.
Clean vehicles for a Green Europe
As we need to face the challenge of global warming and oil depletion, it becomes necessary to institute clean transport alternatives to petrol. The European Commission articulated two strategies that reflect the potential offered by electrics vehicles in the fields of clean technology and energy savings. The first, “Transports 2050”, seeks to reduce the present dependence of the European Union on imported petroleum, while also cutting carbon emissions by 60% by removing most gasoline-operated vehicles from cities by 2050. The second strategy for the advancement of clean and energy-efficient vehicles involves setting up mechanisms for their promotion, such as common battery standards, or the installation of publicly available charging stations.
Challenges to be met, with great gains to be made
While making these changes will be very beneficial, establishing the infrastructure that would allow clean vehicles to function remains nevertheless complex for many regions. One example is Norrbotten (S): “In Sweden, the sun is not always shining, and our land area is greater than 400 000 km. It will prove very complicated to use a car that must be charged every 200 km, not to mention to charge the battery from clean energy sources”, said Kenneth Backgard, Chairman of the AER working group on Energy and Climate Change and member of the regional council of Norrbotten. “Replacing the present car fleet with clean vehicles involves increasing European electricity consumption by 15%. This electricity must be generated by a green energy source”, he concluded.
The region of Wallonie (B) has meanwhile identified another core problem regarding the role the State must play in order to encourage citizens and businesses to use electric cars. Here several good ideas have arisen: fiscal or economic incentives for companies and citizens, investment in research to improve lithium-based batteries (which can be very harmful to the environment) and in smart infrastructure, commercialisation of charging stations and city centre carpooling incentives.
The example of the Land of Baden-Württemberg (D) is quite emblematic, since one fourth of the regions’ jobs depends on the automotive sector. “It is essential to support the industrialisation of electric cars in order to keep our leading position on the world market. With ‘e-mobil BW’, the region created a specialised agency that brings together all relevant actors from industry, research and education paying special attention to small and medium sized companies in the supply chain.” stated Franz Loogen, CEO of e-mobil BW.
“The electric car was born in Europe, and is perfectly placed to overcome the challenges of the future. During the past 2½ years with the MiniE, we have learned much about the wishes and expectations of our clients in the field of electromobility.“, declared Andreas Sauer, BMW Group Representative. “Now it is important to draw the right conclusions and to develop our projects quickly in order to make them competitive in the industry.”
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