What’s Europe doing with alternative fuels?

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#Alternative Fuels, #EV, #Hydrogen
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Alternative fuels have become increasingly popular over the last few years as there is a global effort to reduce carbon emissions. There are several options available, including HVO and EV, however, they all have their limitations and this is deterring businesses from using alternative fuels for their fleets.

Previously, we’ve considered which alternative fuels are most commonly used in the UK and concluded that EV technology and hydrogen likely represent the future of the fuel industry. In this article, we’ll highlight European policies on alternative fuels and explore which countries currently have the most eco-friendly vehicles.

What are alternative fuels? 

Alternative fuels act as a substitute for fossil fuel sources and are being used more frequently within the transport sector as they emit fewer emissions than traditional ICE vehicles. They are usually produced domestically, making them an easily accessible option for fleets.

What are the current objectives for Europe?

The European Green Deal was introduced in 2019 to highlight the key objectives for decarbonisation in Europe. The three main goals are to:

  • Become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
  • Have at least 55% less net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
  • Cut transport emissions by 90% before 2050.  

To ensure that these goals are achieved, local Governments are investing in the technology and infrastructure of alternative fuels which will make them more accessible to the general public. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission recently signed an agreement to combine EU grants with long-term EIB financing for alternative fuel infrastructure projects. Under this agreement, €1.5 billion in EU grants will be available by the end of 2023 to aid the development of electric fast-charging and hydrogen refuelling stations. This investment will help Europe to meet its objectives of 1 million recharging points by 2025 and 3.5 million recharging points by 2030.  

Funding for these grants will also come from the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility (AFIF) which will provide €292 million to install 5,700 charging points and 57 hydrogen refuelling stations across 23 EU Member States within the next 3 years. This investment is essential, as the European Commission has established minimum distance requirements for both electric vehicle charging points and hydrogen refuelling stations. This will reduce the risk of “range anxiety” and make alternative fuels more appealing and accessible to drivers across Europe.

Which alternative fuels are available in Europe?

Autogas

Also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Autogas is a highly efficient, low-carbon producing fuel. It’s the most widely used alternative fuel in Europe with 15,000,000 vehicles already running on Autogas and drivers have access to a widespread filling network of over 46,000 sites. Autogas is regarded as a “green fuel” because it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 18% and nitrous oxide emissions by up to 40%. It’s also generally cheaper to purchase than petrol or diesel, making it an affordable option for businesses on a budget.

Although the use of Autogas is commonplace in countries across Europe, less than 1% of cars on UK roads use it. This is largely due to the lack of incentives from the UK Government which is arguably more focused on promoting EV technology.

EV

In the UK, electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly popular choice for businesses as they produce zero emissions. This is also being seen in many countries across Europe where the use of electric vehicles is being actively encouraged by local Governments. To meet the demand, most European countries are investing in more publicly accessible charging points and are introducing a wider range of EV models.

The year-on-year growth rate of electric cars and vans in all European countries is steadily increasing and it’s expected that this will continue over the next few years as EV technology is one of the leading alternative fuels available. However, there are still some limitations of EV technology which could potentially hinder its expansion in Europe. The main issues that drivers have are:

  • Excessive cost.
  • Heavy weight of batteries which limits the driving range.
  • Lack of recharging points.  

Hydrogen

In the UK, the process of developing new hydrogen vehicles is slow but ongoing, with both the Government and fuel distributors investing in its technology. Across Europe, there is also growing support for hydrogen vehicles as they only emit water vapour and are considered to be more practical than electric vehicles due to their fast-charging time. Hydrogen will therefore have a significant role in decarbonising heavy-duty road vehicles as EV technology is currently unable to meet the needs of these drivers due to their limited driving range.

However, many European countries are not utilising hydrogen technology as the demand is not yet high enough to warrant the significant investment that would be needed. Until the infrastructure has been developed further and the choice of models is extended, it’s unlikely that hydrogen vehicles will be widely used as an alternative fuel in the near future.

Which European countries are utilising alternative fuels the most?

According to the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, Germany currently has the highest number of hydrogen refuelling points, with 89 sites available to drivers. They also have the most amount of hydrogen vehicles on the road with over 1912 hydrogen cars and vans in total, so there is a high demand for an expansive refuelling network. When compared to the 250 hydrogen cars and vans on the road in the UK, it’s clear that more development is needed to ensure that we can keep up with our German counterparts.

In terms of EV technology, the Netherlands comes out on top with the most amount of EV charging points, 101,585 across the country. However, there are only 315,433 electric cars and vans in the Netherlands whereas Germany has 837,985 electric vehicles. This shows that EV technology is being used across Europe with more charging points being introduced every year and more businesses using electric vehicles in their fleets.

Although this data is based on figures from 2021, it shows how some European countries are paving the way for a greener future by adopting alternative fuels on a wide scale.


At Right Fuel Card, we help businesses manage their fuel costs and save time on admin. You’ll have access to thousands of fuel stations across the UK, including all major forecourts and most supermarket chains, and will receive a transparent weekly invoice which details all fuel card transactions.

As alternative fuels are being more commonly used in the UK, we are planning to introduce a wider range of fuel cards which can be used for the different fuels that vehicles will be using. You can register your interest in an EV charge card or explore our current selection of fuel cards through our comparison tool or contact our team at 0113 202 5110 to discuss your options.