Draft legislation was presented on 24 January by the European Commission which included the building of alternative fuel stations (including electricity, natural gas and hydrogen) across Europe with common design and technical standards. This would be a significant boost for clean fuels for cars, trucks and ships across Europe. The purpose behind the initiative is to help push the development of clean fuels and lower the cost by establishing a Europe-wide market for them.

It has been felt that the use of clean fuel has been held back because of the higher cost of the vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance and the lack of availability of recharging and refuelling stations. However, it has been something of a “vicious circle” according to the commission. As far as recharging and refuelling stations are concerned, the stations haven’t been built because of a lack of clean vehicles on the roads. Vehicles are not sold at lower prices because there is simply not enough demand and consumers are reluctant to purchase the vehicles because they are seen as expensive and because there are not enough refuelling and recharging stations.

As far as electric vehicles are concerned, the present situation for recharging varies greatly across Europe. The draft legislation will establish a common standard plug (the “Type 2” plug developed in Germany) and require each EU nation to have a minimum number of recharging points. The part of the proposal on hydrogen for cars is limited to the 14 EU nations which currently have filling stations for hydrogen. Such stations would need to have common standards by 2015 and would have to be in place at certain intervals by 2020. Insofar as compressed natural gas for cars is concerned, the proposal requires that fuelling stations be available across the EU at least every 150 kilometres by 2020. On liquefied natural gas for trucks, the draft legislation requires that fuelling stations be installed every 400 kilometres on roads that are part of the trans-european core network. There are currently only 38 fuelling stations.