The end of combustion - Electric vehicles 2035

Introduction

Growing concern for the environment and the need to reduce emissions of polluting gases has led to an increase in the demand for electric vehicles. These vehicles are a priority for governments and the transportation industry worldwide, as they can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union has set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, and electric vehicles are expected to play an important role in achieving this goal. However, significant investments in charging infrastructure, battery production and electric vehicle technology will be needed to make this possible.

Currently, electric vehicles represent a small share of the new vehicle market in Europe. In 2022, only 14% of new vehicles sold in Europe were electric. Germany contributed the most to this growth, with an increase of 32.2% compared to 2021 and 470,559 EV registrations in that year.

What is the current scenario and what is needed to achieve the target?

Regulations

There are several regulations in Europe that aim to promote the increase of electric vehicles. We can divide the regulations according to the following topics:

  • CO2 emissions regulations: in terms of greenhouse gas emissions regulations, the European Union has set a target of a 37.5% reduction in CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. In addition, from 2035, the European Commission has proposed a ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, meaning that all new vehicles sold in Europe would be electric or hydrogen-powered.
  • Tax incentive regulations: Many European countries offer tax incentives for electric vehicles, such as vehicle tax exemptions, registration tax exemptions, and road tax reductions.
  • Access regulations in urban areas: some European cities are banning vehicles with combustion engines from urban areas and offering incentives for electric vehicles. For example, in Madrid and Barcelona, electric vehicles have free access to regulated parking areas.
  • Infrastructure regulations: Directive 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council, also known as the “Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive” (AFID) establishes minimum requirements for the creation of an electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the European Union. In terms of deadlines, the directive states that, as of December 31, 2025, each Member State must ensure that there is sufficient electric vehicle charging infrastructure on major roads, including freeways and other main roads. In addition, as of December 31, 2030, each Member State must ensure that there is sufficient charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in urban and suburban areas, as well as at points of interest.

It is important to note that, although these targets are set at the European level, each EU member country has some flexibility to implement its own specific legislation and deadlines depending on its needs and resources.

Challenges

Electric vehicles face a number of challenges in order to reach the target set, among the most important we find:

Insufficient charging infrastructure: One of the biggest barriers to mass adoption of electric vehicles in Europe is insufficient charging infrastructure. Although the situation has improved in recent years, there is still a lack of charging stations in many European countries. This can discourage consumers from purchasing electric vehicles due to concerns about the lack of charging options. To overcome this challenge, it is necessary for member countries to invest in infrastructure as set out in Directive 2019/631.

According to a study conducted by ANFAC and EAFO in March 2021, Spain lags significantly behind in terms of the number of public charging points compared to other countries in the European environment.

Source: EAFO (March 2021) and ANFAC (Electromobility Barometer – 1Q 2021).

Electric vehicle range: Despite advances in battery technology, range remains a challenge for many consumers, as it can limit the ability to travel long distances without having to stop to charge the battery. The range of electric vehicles varies by model and manufacturer and can range from 100 to 500 kilometers on a single charge, depending on driving conditions and the speed at which they are driven. In addition, range can be affected by outside temperature and the use of heating and air conditioning systems.

Although for many drivers the range of electric vehicles is sufficient for their daily needs, there is still a segment of the population that needs vehicles with a longer range for long-distance travel or business trips. To address this problem, electric vehicle manufacturers are investing in higher capacity battery technology and improving the energy efficiency of their vehicles.

Battery production: Battery production is a critical factor in the adoption of electric vehicles in Europe. Most EV batteries are produced in Asia, which makes battery production in Europe expensive and uncompetitive. Research and development of more efficient and environmentally friendly battery technologies must also be increased.

Even so, he has proposed a plan for the construction of new factories for the manufacture of battery cells for electric vehicles.

Source: CIC energiGUNE 2021.

Price of electric vehicles: Another major challenge in the adoption of electric vehicles in Europe is price. Currently, electric vehicles are more expensive than internal combustion vehicles, which may discourage consumers from purchasing them. Although production costs are decreasing, electric vehicles still have a higher initial cost mainly due to the cost of batteries.

The following table shows the ranking of the best-selling electric cars in Spain in 2022.

Source: ANFAC / IDEAUTO / Open EV Charts / EU-EVS.

Battery recycling: The problem of electric vehicle battery recycling in Europe is mainly due to the fact that batteries contain valuable, but also toxic and difficult to treat materials. Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in electric vehicles, contain metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese, among others. These materials can be recycled and reused in new batteries, which reduces dependence on raw materials and reduces the carbon footprint associated with the production of new batteries.

However, recycling these batteries is costly and complex, and requires specific technology to recover the valuable metals. Moreover, if not properly recycled, batteries can pose a major environmental and human health problem due to the presence of toxic and polluting elements.

On the other hand, the volume of disused electric vehicle batteries is increasing, and recycling capacity has not yet reached the levels necessary to adequately manage this waste stream. Despite the efforts of industry and governments to develop more efficient and sustainable recycling technologies, there is still work to be done to establish a comprehensive and sustainable recycling system capable of handling the growing number of disused EV batteries.

Conclusions

The adoption of electric vehicles in Europe is a major challenge for the European transport industry and governments. While there are many factors driving the growth of electric vehicles in Europe, there are still significant challenges to be overcome to achieve the goal of an electric vehicle fleet by 2035. Insufficient charging infrastructure, autonomy, battery production, EV pricing and battery recycling are the most important challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a mass adoption of EVs in Europe.

To achieve the goal of an electric vehicle fleet by 2035, European governments must work together with the transport industry to overcome these challenges. Investment in public charging infrastructure, battery production and financial incentives for consumers are important solutions to drive EV adoption in Europe.

In addition, it is important to encourage research and development of more efficient and environmentally friendly battery technologies. This will not only benefit the transport industry but will also help to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint and meet long-term climate targets.

Agnès Lomascolo | Energy Consultant

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