Like many offices across the country at the moment, the topic of the EU referendum is frequently being discussed at Zero Carbon Futures. Having recently been involved in two European-funded projects, we felt it was time to wade in with our own viewpoints on what the EU can and has done for the electric vehicle industry and ask ourselves whether or not we’d be where we are without the EU.
Air quality targets
Let us look at the topic of air pollution as an example. Air pollution is estimated to be the cause of around 29,000 deaths in the UK each year and transport contributes to 40% of those deaths. The EU ambient air quality directive has set a limit and targets for air pollution and has the power to impose fines for poor air quality. This is absolutely what is needed right now to prompt European Governments into action. The EU has the power (and is using it) to reduce emissions, improving health for all and in doing so has promoted the use of alternative fuelled vehicles. The EU can not only set binding targets for all EU member states but can set conditions of sale for any vehicles entering the EU market place.
Carbon Emission targets
Similarly, the EU has set some ambitious carbon emission targets with a goal to see a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions from transport by 2050. In order to meet this target, the EU has placed real pressure on the car industry – something that individual governments would just not be able to do. Can you imagine the UK alone having much success telling South Korea or Chinese companies that the cars they manufacture have to have different emission levels just for the UK?
Of course, in order to prompt the transition to alternatively-fuelled vehicles, the EU also had to put their money where their mouth is. Which they have done by co-financing the development of electric vehicle charging networks throughout Europe. Thanks to the TEN-T programme (now CEF) through our Rapid Charge Network project, the UK has a major motorway network supplied by multi-standard rapid charge points. This joined-up network would not have been possible through the UK Government’s funding programme. We’re not alone either – seven other projects have been funded by the same programme, providing an inter-connected European network.
New business and partnerships
The rules of EU funding also require that projects share the learnings with others which has supported our own company to develop our networks – building partnerships and developing new projects as a result.
The EU, under its Horizon 2020 programme is also funding large-scale collaborative R&D projects without which companies would find it difficult to finance. Our company is currently working on a project investigating the topic of second life batteries – something that will be vital for the industry.
I must temper all those positives with one negative. Sometimes things don’t always go smoothly with Europe. Just recently we nearly had a disaster over the development of consistent charging protocols. If it wasn’t for the rear-guard action of some UK MEPs, the industry may have had to accept the standardisation of the CCS plug with a ban on the CHAdeMO protocol. This would have been a disaster for the charging estate of the UK as well as the fact that all Nissan LEAFs made in the UK need the CHAdeMO standard. But that’s how the EU works and thankfully we were there and able to play an active part in the discussion. To leave would give up our place around the table.
So, I don’t think there’s any ambiguity on the way we will all be voting. A vote to leave would bring about complete uncertainty for the industry – and of course not just ours.
Zero Carbon Futures is an electric vehicle consultancy specialising in the roll-out of charge point networks.