The internal combustion engine can’t get no love these days, especially in Europe. The European Union will announce a plan next week that eliminates the use of fossil fuels in vehicles in Europe by 2050. Can it be done?
Probably not, I’d wager, though not for a lack of trying. The EU wants to cut overall emissions by 60% by 2050, which seems like a realistic goal if you include the introduction of more renewable fuels and power sources. Another big part of the plan is to push more of the population on to public transportation, which makes sense in Europe’s old, congested cities. Eventually, they want to ban the use of gas and diesel fuel in city centers entirely, which could make the delivery of goods difficult.
However, completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels in city centers just isn’t likely to happen in less than 40 years, with the big outlier being the transportation of goods. Unlike the United States, Europe has struggled to turn a profit on freight rail (though their passenger trains do just fine.) So while electric cars might be just fine 40 years from now for transporting people, will the technology have evolved enough to make transporting goods hundreds, or thousands of miles overland? Will they be stopped at the city limits and forced to transfer their load onto smaller EV delivery trucks? Sounds inefficient and costly, and that cost gets passed on to the consumer.
I don’t know. By banning fossil fuels though, the EU alienates alternatives like CNG and LPG, both of which are cleaner burning and readily abundant. Electric cars certainly are promising, but their acceptance is going to take plenty of time, and ICE technology has been stalled for decades. Who is to say the same won’t happen with EV’s? And while the EU is pushing for big advances in EV technology, the plan calls for most journeys between cities of more than 186 miles to move from the road to rail. But why push for more range out of EV’s if you’re just planning on putting people on trains anyway? You’ll have EV’s that can go 300 miles that no one will want to buy because hey, we have trains for those long trips.
I think the EU should concentrate on getting its city dwellers around without cars. Apparently Europeans use cars to get around the city 75% of the time, which is probably still way less than most Americans, but more than it should be with today’s available technology. I agree that traffic congestion is a problem, but the EU might back itself into a corner with this dramatic proposal…if it is even taken seriously. The white paper, introduced by Siim Kallas of the EU transportation commission, is in no way binding, though it should be an indication of the kind of people the European Union has put in charge of transportation.
Do you guys think the EU can get around without fossil fuels by 2050?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.