Launch of the Route 35 platform | Our priorities for achieving our electrification goals | Speech by Commissioner Thierry Breton

“Check against delivery”

I am delighted to welcome you today in Brussels to kick-start –together – the Route 35 series of meetings.

I want to thank you for having responded positively at such short notice. I believe it mirrors the urgency of the moment and our collective intention to act rapidly and with ambition to be able to meet the electrification targets that have been set.

It also shows how much the transformation of the automotive industry – and mobility at large – requires the involvement of an entire ecosystem, from trade unions to suppliers, from NGOs to local authorities.

This is not about managing the transition for of manufacturers: it is about accompanying changes for thousands of SMEs, 12 million of workers, and about 10 million of consumers buying a new vehicle each year. Not to mention our cities, reinventing themselves to carry the future of mobility.

To do so, we need two conditions:

  • An opportunity to engage with the entire ecosystem: that is why I am so glad to see so many of you today;
  • An agreement on key performance indicators: I will come back to this in a minute.

[Mobilising all players]

First, on the need to engage the entire ecosystem.

The EU has adopted a very ambitious objective: the end of the sales of light-duty vehicles with an internal combustion engine by 2035.

Achieving this objective will not happen on its own, magically. The successful production and roll-out of zero-emission vehicles is a matter too serious to be left in the hands of engineers only.

Several enabling conditions need to be met, with direct implications for Europe’s industrial competitiveness, which require a more profound reflection.

Today, Europe is a net exporter of vehicles, with an overall trade surplus of 80 billion euros.

But global competition is fierce. In fact, electric mobility is a new and coveted market. With Chinese imports of electric vehicles skyrocketing and the US attracting investments in electric vehicles manufacturing, we need to remain a competitive location for manufacturing electric vehicles and exporting them around the world.

This is our unique chance to tap into the growth and jobs potential of this transformation. We must ensure that we are not a mere subcontractor depending on others, and that clean mobility leads to jobs in Europe.

This requires infrastructure, technologies and workforce readiness. It is also about input availability – mainly energy and raw materials.

As you know, the political agreement reached by the co-legislators on CO₂ emission for new cars and vans includes a review clause in 2026. This is an opportunity for us, collectively, to measure our progress and refine our roadmap if needed, without changing the travel destination.

Today is not about politics, or lobbying. I know your concerns about some of our recent proposals, or your worries about forthcoming initiatives. I have already spoken with Frans Timmermans. Euro 7 Is now in co-decision, and this is where we will need to find solutions.

Today is about defining what is needed for a successful transition of the automotive industry, in line with the work done through the Transition Pathway for the mobility ecosystem.

[Refining the roadmap]

To do so, and this is my second point, we need to define Key Performance Indicators.

Of course, we need to monitor the number of zero emission production lines, R&D centres, or overall vehicle sales. But we need much more than that.

Let me highlight five main areas that I think are very relevant.

First, charging infrastructure.

30 million electric cars are expected on European roads in 2030. This means the need for about 3.5 million publicly accessible recharging points. Today, we have less than 400 000.

For heavy duty vehicles, the challenge is as big: 20 000 recharging points of 350 kilowatts are needed, along our transport core and comprehensive network. I could also mention the 800 hydrogen refuelling stations with a 2 tons-per day capacity of hydrogen provision.

So, we should monitor the number of public charging stations, and clarify where we need to be by 2026, to be on the right track for 2035.

In addition, I understand it takes two weeks to build a charging station. But up to three years to get all that is required for it to access the electricity grid. Surely, we need to work together to accelerate the deployment, maybe through permitting reforms. How can we track progress on these aspects too?

And we also need to address the coverage disparities from one Member State to another. It will certainly require a granular analysis of electric vehicle market share by region, to identify critical milestones and whether complementary measures should be deployed and when.

Second, electricity generation capacity.

Electric cars on European roads will need 150 GW of electricity capacity by 2050, 10% of the overall capacity. In 2030 already, the grid will need to be able to integrate the charging needs of these vehicles, while promoting the vehicle-to-grid potential.

So, how much additional electricity do we need to meet this ambition, while catering for other electrification needs, such as heat pumps to replace gas boilers or demand from electrolysers? And, maybe even more importantly, how do we measure grid capacity and performance to cater for specific charging needs? Such as the fact that cars will need to recharge at night, when solar production is low.

Third, raw materials.

Demand for battery raw materials will rise significantly: for lithium, 15 times by 2030; 4 times for cobalt and natural graphite. We cannot replace one dependency, on fossil fuels, by another, on raw materials.

With the European Battery Alliance, we have built up a battery value chain in Europe so that we can satisfy 90% of our needs with European batteries by 2030. But we know what it implies for sourcing and processing those materials. This is why I will present a Critical Raw Materials Act. Maybe this should include targets for domestic production or processing of critical raw materials for the next decade?

Fourth, jobs.

Switching to electric cars means hundreds of thousands of jobs destroyed along the supply chain. Yes, batteries will generate new jobs, but not the same jobs, not in the same place, and not from one day to the next.

We need to pay specific attention to re-skilling. I know the Automotive Skills Alliance – some of you are members – is already doing a great job. 2023 will be the European Year of Skills and we should use the momentum to intensify the work. I would like to be able to track possible skills shortages, or even the number of workers re-skilled or upskilled every year. And what do you think is needed on this by 2026?

Beyond that, I believe we can do better at sharing knowledge, information and best practices among directly affected regions, and supporting a just transition of the automotive sector. We should identify any possible funding gap for this just transition. We will have next year the mid-term review of the EU’s long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework. We could maybe reflect on these just transition aspects in that context.

Fifth, affordability.

Today’s reality is that a significant share of Europe’s population cannot afford to buy a new electric car. The significant cost reductions anticipated a few years back are now challenged by high raw materials costs to produce batteries, or by the lack of semi-conductors. We should track cost developments and identify areas where urgent additional efforts are needed.

And meanwhile, a new trend is emerging. The imports of affordable electric vehicles from China. In 2016, we imported 74,000 cars from China. In 2020, 200,000. In 2021? 500,000. Half of those are electric vehicles. As such, the most recent announcement by some European OEMs that they will build electric vehicles in China for export back to Europe is particularly worrying.

We must therefore work together to monitor whether Europe produces the affordable vehicles that European consumers require.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will stop here for now. I presented some initial ideas of key dimensions that require to be tracked and monitored. There may be others.

I now look forward to hearing your views, suggestions and expectations.

Thank you.


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