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On 15 April, the European Parliament gave its final approval to new rules to ensure the build-up of infrastructure for alternative fuels across Europe and the development of common technological specifications, including CNG and LNG refuelling points. The Parliament adopted the compromise text agreed with the Council of Member States with a clear majority of 622 votes in favour and 29 against. NGVA Europe, the European stakeholder for CNG and LNG vehicles, welcomes the parliament's decision, since "this is big positive forward for methane as a vehicle fuel", said Lennart Pilskog, Secretary General of NGVA Europe.

The Directive establishes a common framework of measures for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure in the EU. More specifically, the Directive sets out minimum requirements on alternative fuels infrastructure build up, to be implemented through Member States' national policy frameworks, including common technical specifications for refuelling points for natural gas (LNG and CNG). Mathieu Grosch (EPP, BE), who spoke on behalf of the rapporteur Carlo Fidanza (EPP, IT) stated that "this question of alternative fuels at the end of the Parliament was symptomatic as it was one of the cornerstones of the 2011 White Paper".

Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, noted that the transport sector needs certainty that enough refuelling and recharge points are available, but regretted that they could not convince the Council to accept a more ambitious text especially on infrastructure objectives.

Overall, it is still a good outcome as the text requires Member States to set targets to make infrastructure available for the most common alternative fuels. For CNG infastructure and electric charging, the agreement forsees adequate refuelling for cities and densely populated areas, the deadline of 2020 was preserved, and for CNG and LNG refuelling points along the TEN-T core network, the deadline has been moved to 2025 (5 years later than the Commission preferred).

National binding targets will only have to be developed for CNG, LNG and electricity, while the deal offers more flexibiltiy to Member States for developing hydrogen refielling points. CNG and LNG will play a major role in Europe’s fuel strategy and the NGV related industry will work closely together with national governments during the 24 months to come when developing national policy frameworks.

NGVA Europe furthermore welcomes a specific amendment on user information and request for better fuel price transparency:

"Simple and easy to compare information on prices of different fuels could be important for vehicle users to better evaluate the relative cost of individual fuels available on the market. Therefore, when displaying fuel prices on a fuel station, in particular for natural gas and hydrogen, unit price comparison to conventional fuels, such as “1 petrol litre equivalent”, may be displayed for information purposes."

CNG is sold in kilograms, hence the customer is simply not aware of the fact that CNG is the cheapest fuel (1 kg CNG = 1,5 litre petrol).

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CNG filling station connected to NG pipe (Bohlen & Doyen)

LNG filling station using liquefied NG (Gasrec)

The main measures agreed are:

  • Minimum levels of infrastructure across the EU that require Member States to submit to the Commission national plans for minimum levels of infrastructure – refuelling and recharging stations - for alternative fuels.
  • EU wide standards for the infrastructure, including standardised refuelling equipment for natural gas.
  • Clear consumer information to facilitate use including on the recharging and refuelling stations themselves, as well as comparison of prices for the different clean and conventional fuels.

With regard to natural gas and biomethane, Member States will now have to develop national action plans to provide the appropriate infrastructure for CNG and LNG refuelling (road and maritime) according to the following provisions:

  • 2020 target CNG: adequate refuelling in urban agglomerations and densely populated areas.
  • 2025 target CNG/LNG (road): minimum number of filling stations along the TEN-T core network
    (150 km for CNG and 400 km for LNG mentioned as indicative maximum distances)
  • 2025 target LNG (shipping): refuelling in a sufficient number of TEN-T seaports.
  • 2030 target LNG (shipping): refuelling in a sufficient number of TEN-T inland ports.
  • Common technical standards for CNG and LNG refuelling points by 2015.
  • Consumer information: the unit price per "1 petrol litre equivalent" may be used (dealt with in a seperate document)

The Directive foresees a market assessment and possible revision of the initiative by 2027. Publication of the Directive after legal-linguistic screening will supposedly take place in the second half of 2014. Following the vote of the European Parliament, the new rules should be formally adopted by Council later this year.

For details, refer to Agreed text, Report, Legislative observatory

Source: European Commission - IP/14/440, NGVA Europe

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