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EU e-car bill highlights Poland's unpreparedness

Jo Harper
June 10, 2022

The European Parliament has approved a bill prohibiting the sale of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035, part of plans to cut net emissions by 55% by 2030. The move highlights Poland's lack of electric charging facilities.

E-cars being recharged
A sufficient number of charging points will be a prerequisite for people to buy more electric carsImage: Wolfram Steinberg/picture alliance

European parliamentary deputies this week voted to back a 2021 European Commission proposal for a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035. The bill, if approved by all 27 member states, would make it impossible to sell fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the EU from that date.

Transport produces 25% of Europe's planet-heating emissions.

Being one of the main parts of the EU's "Fit for 55" program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the bill does not yet mean "hard" implementation of the plan, but carmakers, parts suppliers and the relevant authorities in Central and Eastern Europe are already mulling their options.

Slovakia and Hungary have large car production plants, mainly making German cars, while Poland is a supplier of a lot of the parts, in particular batteries for cars produced by Western manufacturers. 

Lack of charging stations

However, the key here is not so much limitations on the number of cars produced in central and eastern Europe, but the number of cars that could be sold there, given the paucity of electric charging stations.

Brussels has proposed a statute obliging member states to install public charging stations within 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) of main roads by 2025. This means 3.5 million public charging stations for cars and vans by 2030 and an increase of up to 16.3 million by 2050.

But about 70% of the 300,000 charging points are located in just four of the EU's 27 countries.

In 2020, there were 44 chargers per 100 kilometers of roads in the Netherlands, in Belgium 38, in Germany 18 and in Poland 1.5.

According to data from the Alternative Fuels Market Observatory, at the end of April 2022, there were 2,166 charging points in Poland, up from 1,000 in December 2019. By comparison, there are an average of 50 charging points per 100 kilometers of motorway in the Netherlands. In Poland, it is not more than 0.5 per 100 kilometers of motorway.

The government has proposed that by 2024 there will be 4,035 chargers in Poland and in 2029 as many as 36,894. 

The ACEA, the European association of car manufacturers, says there are about 300,000 public charging points in the European Union. According to the organization, come the ban on the sale of new combustion cars, the network would have to include 6.8 million public charging points.

Electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles made up 18% of new passenger cars sold in the EU in 2021, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. But the overall share of electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles is much lower.

It was estimated that in 2030 the percentage of electric cars may reach an average of 15%, but in Poland it would be only 7%. Today, Poland has only 45,000 electric vehicles.

Negotiations start now

Measures to reduce CO2 emissions now require the approval of all member states. This process could take about two years and there will probably be opposition votes, for example from Germany and France, both with strong automotive industries.

Amendments tabled by conservative MEPs aiming to dilute or delay the full ban on vehicles with combustion engines failed to receive backing from a majority.

Reuters news agency reported that industry groups, including German auto association VDA, have lobbied MEPs to reject the 2035 target, which they say penalizes alternative low-carbon fuels and is too early to commit to, given the uncertain rollout of charging infrastructure.

Newly completed Tesla electric cars
Tesla's huge plant outside Berlin plans to crank up output in the years aheadImage: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

Options exist

One of the counterproposals assumes limiting the reduction of CO2 emissions by new cars to 90%.

Another is not demanding the sale of non-combustion vehicles in specific parts of the EU. This would mean an "unblocked" pool of combustion cars going to countries least adapted to the challenges posed by electromobility including Poland. Warsaw is reportedly lobbying for this option.

The Polish Ministry for Climate and Environment has also pointed out that special funding programs have been launched to accelerate the setting up of charging stations for electric cars and significantly increasing their number.

The ministry said the negotiations on the regulations would be a long process and the final content could not be foreseen at the moment.

Edited by: Hardy Graupner