12 September 2008

International study shows barriers for the introduction of alternative fuels in the transport sector

EU-strategy needed to introduce alternatives

Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have participated in a study and evaluation of the barriers present in Europe against the generalised introduction of alternative fuels in road transports. National and international political agendas have set clear priorities to reduce the use of energy in transport as well as their resulting emissions, and tackle the problems caused by oil scarcity and the escalating prices. Climate change, coupled with the alarming consequences that high oil prices have on the economy, increase the concern of institutions at all levels. Various administrative bodies are aware of this situation and are promoting the use of alternative fuels in the transport sector.

Nevertheless, there are many obstacles that arise with any serious intention to make alternative fuels increase their market share; with cost, performance, and reliability being the key factors for the economical success of alternative fuels in road transport.

Researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, involved in the European project STEPS (Scenarios for the Transport System and Energy Supply and their Potential Effects), have studied the situation of alternative fuels currently in use in Europe: natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), hydrogen and biofuel. For each of these, they have examined the latest technical developments, their marketing potential, and the obstructions against their introduction in different market segments.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the difficulties for the introduction of these fuels in the market are common to all new technologies, and those can be overcome if the right policies are applied at an European level. It would generally be necessary to develop a strategy that includes a combination of policies for different sectors, as well as measures aimed to increase their efficiency.

Of the policies, the study underlines those that affect the consumption of energy in the transport sector. These include market incentive policies, among which we can find tax reductions or loans for the use of certain energy sources, the change of the taxing tables for the acquisition and maintenance of vehicles; those aimed to increase the technology and efficiency of the vehicle, and those that seek a better efficiency of the transport system on a global scale.

Also, it is evident that for the new fuels to succeed, it is necessary to act on the technological side of vehicles. This can be achieved by means of the development of a useful regulatory system that promotes vehicle manufacturers to make the investments required for the adaptation to the new fuels. Like most cases in which a new technology appears on the market, it calls for a bigger investment until the technology earns the trust of manufacturers and consumers.

This study has incorporated participating teams from 14 EU countries, including the University of Leuven, along with the researchers from the Centro de Investigación del Transporte – TRANSyT of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

Source: AlphaGalileo, 2008-09-11.

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