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Vehicles of the future will move away from fossil fuels – but speed of the transformation will depend on battery and fuel cell development, on the commercialisation of vehicles that use them and on the rollout of charging and fuelling infrastructure.
A Friends of Europe Café Crossfire on 27 March debated this theme, which has enormous stakes for the future of European industry. Vehicle manufacturing is one of the biggest employers in the EU, and changing the industry’s core technology has the potential to trigger upheaval. Although the market for vehicles that don’t use fossil fuels is still small, it has started to grow fast, and the list of countries planning to ban internal combustion engines is expanding rapidly.
Electric and renewable hydrogen vehicles have yet to take off for at least two main reasons. First, they are seen as too expensive for the average motorist. Second, drivers worry that their lack of range and recharging infrastructure could leave them stranded, without the energy to complete their journey.
The key to overcoming both these barriers is investment – in the technology that powers the cars, and in the recharging infrastructure. In addition, for new types of vehicles to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases, cheap renewable energy is needed, so that the ultimate source of the energy in batteries and fuel cells is not fossil fuels.
“The trajectory to the future is clear,” said Greg Archer, Director of Clean Vehicles and Energy at Transport and Environment (T&E). “We believe electro-mobility will predominantly be battery-powered but will also feature hydrogen. The shift is coming because we are producing very cheap renewable energy that will power our vehicles.”