Commercial fleets: the ace up Europe’s sleeve for transport decarbonisation

News Article

The future of Europe’s transport sector is electrification, but at what speed?

As the EU called for the phase-out of internal combustion engines, electric corporate fleets are the catch-one solution to decarbonise the transport sector. Several companies are now set to accelerate their EV transformation with higher decarbonisation targets. Yet, speeding up will only be feasible if coupled with reliable grids and smart charging infrastructure.  

Transport accounts for no less than a quarter of EU emissions (data 2022). This is the reason why the EU has been taking important steps to promote its decarbonisation. Recently, the European Parliament voted the phase-out of internal combustion engines for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and the Commission proposed to reduce heavy-duty vehicles’ emissions by 45% by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

As a result, electric vehicle (EVs) sales have seen a growth of 349% between 2019 andto 2021. This pace is only going to accelerate and corporate fleet electrification will be a powerful catalyst for change.

The corporate EV-turn

In the transport sector’s decarbonisation puzzle, commercial cars and vans are a critical piece. They make up for 20% of the total EU vehicle parc but are responsible for half of all road transport emissions. Their electrification must therefore be a matter of priority to decarbonise transport rapidly.

Moreover, commercial vehicle purchases will facilitate the deployment of charging points and contribute to a more affordable second-hand EVs market to the wider public after only three to five years.

With this in mind, last week, Eurelectric with several European businesses asked the European Commission to raise the ambition of its Greening Corporate Fleets Initiative. They called for setting a binding target on the purchase of zero-emissions corporate cars and vans by 2030 and for the initiative to incorporate heavy commercial vehicles.

Success, however, will require investing in key enabling factors. Failure to act on them now will put the corporate EV-turn’s ambition at risk.

Paving the way to EV uptake: smart charging infrastructure…

Smart charging is key to the EV rollout and has the potential to turning them into a valuable flexibility asset for the distribution grid. By regulating EVs’ charging power, these smart devices interact with the distribution grid and prioritise charging during low-demand hours. This is the so-called vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system, which allows EVs to store power and release it back to the grid at times of peak demand.

Today, there are over 374,000 public charging points in Europe. By 2035, this number will need to rise to at least 65 million, of which 9 million will be public and 56 million residential. While meeting this exponential growth, charging infrastructure must also become more equally distributed.

In 2022, 66% of all EU charging points were concentrated in just five countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK. Meanwhile, 10 European countries have less than one charge point for every 100 kilometres of road. Greece, Bulgaria, and Lithuania, for instance, have just over 650 charge points between them.

…and grid investments

Grid investments are the other side of the equation when it comes to driving the EV uptake. A growing fleet of electric vehicles and smart charging infrastructure must be integrated in a reliable, resilient, and modern power network. This calls for an urgent boost in investment to upgrade, digitalise and reinforce networks.

Eurelectric’s Connecting the Dots report estimated that €33 billion would be required in the decade 2020-2030 to support distribution system resilience. This figure will be even higher with the more ambitious targets for corporate fleet electrification.

Getting this equation right is essential to a rapid and feasible electrification of Europe’s transport sector.

Eurelectric is ready to make its next move to accelerate e-mobility across Europe at the EVision 2023 annual event which will tackle in detail e-mobility 6 essentials. For more information visit our EVision business hub.