Photo credits @ Volvo Trucks

EU alternative fuels infrastructure regulation approved; IRU says questions left unanswered

The EU Transport and Tourism Committee has approved an agreement on the mandatory deployment of alternative fuel infrastructure for cars, trucks, and cleaner maritime fuels. The new rules aim to expand the availability of recharging stations and alternative refuelling stations for vehicles. International road transport organisation IRU welcomes the agreement but says many questions have remained unanswered.

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EU countries will be required to set national targets for the deployment of this infrastructure and present plans on how to achieve them.

As part of the agreement, electric charging pools for cars with at least a 400 kW output will need to be installed every 60 kilometres along the core TEN-T network by 2026, increasing to 600 kW by 2028.

Payment at recharging points should be convenient and easily accessible, and the pricing of fuels should be transparent and comparable.

Additionally, new rules have been established for sustainable maritime fuels, with ships gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their energy use. By 2050, ships will be required to reduce emissions by 80% compared to the 2020 level.

Furthermore, containerships and passenger ships will have to use on-shore power supply while docked at major EU ports starting in 2030, aiming to reduce air pollution in those areas.

IRU lacks more details

While IRU welcomes the alternative fuels infrastructure regulation (AFIR), saying the text sets an initial and binding EU legal framework, it falls short of the level of ambition called for by IRU.

Some important questions remain unanswered, notably relating to the derogations that Member States can use to limit infrastructure development or electricity generation, as well as the link between AFIR and the newly proposed CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), the international road transport organisation stresses.

TRAN Committee’s vote confirms the 15% deployment target for electric charging infrastructure dedicated to HDVs every 120km on the entire TEN-T network by the end of 2025. A 50% target is set for the end of 2027. By the end of 2030, the distance will be reduced to 60km on the core and 100km on the comprehensive network.

The agreed text sets an earlier deadline, 2027 compared to 2030, for the deployment of electric charging infrastructure in safe and secure truck parking areas, as originally proposed by the European Commission. The number of electric charging stations in each safe and secure parking areas is set to two by the end of 2027, increasing to four by the end of 2030.

“Moreover, the European Parliament’s call for Member States to carry out an analysis before 2025 to evaluate and plan the necessary grid reinforcements for infrastructure dedicated to HDVs has regrettably not made it into the final text. Instead, a general provision was included requiring Member States to ensure consistency between the infrastructure planning and grid planning,” IRU claims.

IRU Director of EU Advocacy, Raluca Marian, added:

“Without sufficient power, the charging infrastructure is of no use to the heavy-duty commercial road transport sector. Unfortunately, AFIR does not solve the electricity grid component of the equation.”

IRU also points out that, according to the new text of the agreement, hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will only be deployed every 200km on the TEN-T core network by the end of 2030. The European Parliament’s proposal to anticipate the deadline for the deployment of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure to the end of 2027 was not considered.

IRU reiterates the importance of providing options to the industry and not relying on one single technology to decarbonise the road transport sector.

During the trilogue negotiations, the electric power output requirements in urban nodes were increased, but the precise application of this condition remains vague.

“In the transition to zero-emission vehicles, urban areas are the low-hanging fruit. But AFIR puts the cost and responsibility to establish charging points almost entirely on transport operators. The road transport industry consists mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises with razor thin margins. Buses could potentially recharge at their depots. But what about trucks and coaches? Where are they supposed to recharge?” highlighted Raluca Marian.

The same applies to hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. The role of a revised TEN-T regulation, which sets the location and number of urban nodes (424 in total, up from 88) across the EU, will play an important role in defining the location and accelerating the deployment of publicly accessible alternative fuel infrastructure in urban areas.

But IRU is pleased to see that the European Commission will create an EU database by 2027 with information on alternative fuels infrastructure availability, waiting times and prices. Transport operators must have easy access to this information when planning their respective operations.