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Alternative fuels for sustainable mobility in Europe

Today, transport still relies on oil for 94% of its energy needs.4 Europe imports around 87% of its crude oil and oil products from abroad, with a crude oil import bill estimated at around €187 billion in 20155, and additional costs to the environment.

Research and technological development have led to successful demonstrations of alternative fuel solutions for all transport modes. Market take-up, however, requires additional policy action.

The Clean Power for Transport package aims to facilitate the development of a single market for alternative fuels for transport in Europe:

  • A Communication laying out a comprehensive European alternative fuels strategy [COM(2013)17 ], for the long-term substitution of oil as energy source in all modes of transport;
  • A proposal for a Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels recharging and refuelling infrastructure [COM(2013)18 ];
  • An accompanying Impact Assessment [SWD(2013)5 ];
  • A Staff Working Document setting out the needs in terms of market conditions, regulations, codes and standards for a broad market uptake of LNG in the shipping sector [SWD(2013)4 ].

The final Directive, as adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 29 September 2014 following the inter-institutional negotiations:

  • Requires Member States to develop national policy frameworks for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure;
  • Foresees the use of common technical specifications for recharging and refuelling stations;
  • Paves the way for setting up appropriate consumer information on alternative fuels, including a clear and sound price comparison methodology.


Alternative Fuels used for Shipping

Alternative Fuels used as fuel in shipping is not very wide spread currently but LNG (mainly sea going vessels) and vessels using electric drive with batteries or hydrogen (fuel cells) as energy storage (in small vessel applications and in ferries) are gaining attention. Also, several “drop-in” Alternative Fuels have been applied for shipping on an experimental basis. 

Alternative Fuels for Shipping which will be reported on the EAFO portal are: Liquefied natural gas (LNG), Electricity (energy carrier), Hydrogen, Biofuels, Methanol, Dimethyl ether (DME), LPG. Most of the reporting in EAFO will be on demonstration projects using Alternative Fuels in Shipping and technology developments.

For sea going vessels, LNG is the most used alternative fuel. Concerning geographic scope, for sea going ships a global approach will be followed with more detail if available for the European operating area. For LNG, a traditional use is LNG carriers where most carriers use dual fuel diesel engines capable of using any combination of LNG and bunker fuels, using the LNG cargo boil off for fuel. Other sea going vessel types are already operational as well. Application of alternative fuels for inland shipping is limited and mainly aimed at trials. 

LNG is also an attractive fuel option for vessels in particular to meet the new limits for Sulphur content in marine fuels decreasing from 1 % to 0.1 % from 1 January 2015 in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel as set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)19. These obligations will be relevant for about half of the 10,000 ships currently engaged in intra-EU shipping. LNG is an attractive economic alternative also for shipping outside SECAs, where Sulphur limits will decrease from 3.5% to 0.5% from 1 January 2020, and globally.

The required coverage and the timings by which this coverage must be put in place is as follows:




Electricity in urban/suburban and other densely populated areas

Appropriate number of publically accessible points

by end 2020

CNG in urban/suburban and other densely populated areas

Appropriate number of points

by end 2020

CNG along the TEN-T core network

Appropriate number of points

by end 2025

Electricity at shore-side

Ports of the TEN-T core network and other ports

by end 2025

Hydrogen in the Member States who choose to develop it

Appropriate number of points

by end 2025

LNG at maritime ports

Ports of the TEN-T core network

by end 2025

LNG at inland ports

Ports of the TEN-T core network

by end 2030

LNG for heavy-duty vehicles

Appropriate number of points along the TEN-T core network

by end 2025