As the punters, pundits, and prognosticators gather for the Paris motor show, potentially the most important motoring decision of the week will be taken down the road in Strasbourg, where the European Parliament is meeting to vote on proposals that could see an enforced quota of electric car sales by 2030.
The package of proposals being put before the parliament also includes major reductions in the allowable Co2 emissions from vehicles. A cut of 40 per cent of Co2 emissions by 2030, using the 2021 official figures as a baseline, has been proposed, although it’s expected that lobbying and amendments will see that figure reduced, as has been the case with other recent vehicle emissions legislation.
When it comes to electric cars, there’s a push on to force car makers to sell 40 per cent of their range with electric power buy 2030, although again it’s expected that a compromise proposal of 35 per cent electric cars could be more likely to make it through on the vote.
The vote in the European parliament will take place on Wednesday the 4th of October, and once the debate there is finished, Europe’s environment ministers will have until October 9th to weigh in on the legislation.
Ireland’s position is already clear on the matter - the Government has already stated its ambition that by 2030, any new car sold in the State will have to be electric, and the much-expected ‘watering down’ of the proposal to include plugin hybrids has not yet happened.
Indeed, Ireland is being seen as something of a beacon when it comes to electric car adoption right now. Ireland's progress in installing a fast-charging network on major road routes, for example, has been noted by the likes of eco pressure group Transport and Environment (T&E). Indeed, T&E says that Ireland's 2030 ambition might be crucial in getting this latest round of proposed legislation across the line.
Yoann Le Petit, clean vehicles officer at Transport & Environment, told The Irish Times: "We know that motorists are open to buying electric cars and that there are enough charging points today to cater for consumers' needs, but carmakers aren't doing enough to offer attractive electric models in different vehicle segments. Europe-wide, there are only about 20 electric models compared to more than 400 conventional vehicles. If Ireland is serious about its pledge to sell only zero-emission vehicles in 2030, its government and MEPs should support ambitious EU car Co2 reduction targets and a sales mandate that rewards carmakers who go zero-emissions and penalises those who don't. This will help kick start the EV market in Europe and Ireland, making them more affordable, and ultimately help roll out cleaner cars on the country's roads.
“Was Ireland’s plan to sell only zero-emission vehicles after 2030 just fluff? If not then the government and Irish MEPs need to support ambitious EU car Co2 reduction targets and a sales mandate that rewards carmakers who go zero-emissions and penalises those who don’t. Otherwise Ireland’s zero emission plan simply will not happen.”
A poll carried out by Ipsos Mort for T&E found that across Europe, some 40 per cent of consumers said that they would be at least prepared to consider an electric car for their next purchase, while as many as 12 per cent said that they would very likely buy a battery car next time out.
The new proposals have been met with dismay by the European car industry, though. There are tough penalties being proposed, including a five per cent increase in the Co2 reduction figure for those who miss the electric vehicle quota. The ACEA, the umbrella body that represents the European car industry at governmental and EU level, has said that employment could be severely impacted by such proposals. "Auto manufacturers are eager to move as fast as they can towards zero-emission vehicles," said ACEA secretary general, Erik Jonnaert. "However, the entire European automotive supply chain will need to transform at a pace which is manageable, protecting employment and the long-term viability of the sector. This report makes it clear that overly stringent CO2 targets, as well as unrealistic sales quota for battery electric vehicles (the so-called 'benchmarks'), could lead to serious structural problems across the EU."
The ACEA is concerned that, because electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and are therefore easier to build, and easier and simpler to service and maintain once in use, that employment in both the manufacturing and retail arms of the industry could be hit hard once such cars gain pre-eminence in the market.