Uptake of cleaner and alternative fuels
Assessment made on 01 Aug 2003
ClassificationTransport (Primary theme)
DPSIR: Driving force
- TERM 031
Policy issue: Switch to cleaner and renewable fuels
The introduction of unleaded petrol is a major success story in the EU and the acceding countries as leaded petrol has been completely phased out. As far as leaded petrol is concerned, the objective of switching towards less environmentally harmful fuels has thus been achieved, though the complete uptake of unleaded petrol in the candidate countries is expected to be completed by the date of accession.
Many Member States have introduced incentives to promote low sulphur fuels towards the objective of reducing the sulphur content of fuels to a maximum of 50 ppm by 2005 and to a maximum of 10 ppm by 2009. A reduction in the sulphur content of petrol and diesel fuels is expected to have a large impact on exhaust emissions as it will enable the introduction of more sophisticated after-treatment systems.
The penetration of biofuels and other alternative fuels is still rather low. With petrol and diesel becoming cleaner, the emission advantage of alternative fuels is getting smaller.
The phase-out of leaded petrol is one of the most successful integration policies in the European Union. Unleaded petrol was introduced in Europe in 1985. The share of unleaded petrol increased on average by 10.4 % per year during the last decade, reaching over 90 % in 2000. With the ban on leaded petrol in Greece and Italy - as of January 2002 - leaded petrol is no longer sold in the EU.
In the acceding and candidate countries the process of phasing out leaded petrol started around five years later than in the EU. In spite of the lack of complete data-series, it is known that leaded petrol is no longer sold in the acceding countries with the exception of Cyprus and Malta where no data are available. In Iceland and Norway, leaded petrol has not been sold since 1999.
An important factor boosting replacement of leaded with unleaded fuel has been the requirement of catalytic converters for both imported and domestically produced cars, starting in 1993 in Slovakia. Other acceding countries soon followed (Slovenia 1994, Poland 1995 and Hungary 1996).
It is important to note that although one normally assumes that the unleaded fuel use is related exclusively to the number of passenger cars fitted with catalytic converters, this may not be entirely correct. It is observed that unleaded fuel is used extensively even by non-catalytic cars, since it is generally cheaper because of incentives.
Although many Member States have introduced incentives to promote low and zero sulphur fuels, there are not enough statistical data for a complete assessment of the progress achieved so far.
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For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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