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Electric Mobility Policy Framing in the USA and Europe - a Snap Shot

bridges vol. 24, December 2009 / Feature Article

By Heimo Aichmaier

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elektromobilitaet.jpg In the years 2008 and 2009, one could observe a rapidly growing interest by industry and the public in the electrification of transportation. Public discussions about crude oil independency, greenhouse gases, climate change, and energy efficiency have put pressure on public administrations for more responsible, more sustainable, and system-integrated transport solutions. Electric mobility is seen by many as a very promising problem-solving technology for emission challenges or congestion problems in urban areas as well as the bridging technology towards the hydrogen age in transport. The latest driving factors for policy makers were influenced by improvements in battery technology and the first market introductions of hybrid technologies like mild-hybrid vehicles with start-stop generators or regenerative brakes, and the success of full-hybrid vehicles from various car manufacturers like Toyota/Lexus, Honda, Ford, GM/Opel, VW, BMW, and Mercedes. Those vehicles improved the consumers' acceptance and expectations for future vehicle technologies. For example, consumers were willing to be wait-listed for up to six months to receive their cars by early 2009, when the US market made up more than 500.000 of the 1.2 million Priuses sold worldwide. Furthermore, press and media are publishing news in the field of electric mobility and electric-drive trains on a nearly daily basis. This shapes public opinion and raises pressure on car manufacturers to present and implement new electric transport solutions and infrastructure.

Policy makers worldwide now have to reset and realign the organizational, logistic, and R&D framework of national transport systems to stimulate the integration of new energy and transport technologies to reflect public interests. This is a challenge that requires combined efforts of the energy and the automotive sectors - two sectors that have not been connected that strongly in the past will be looking to an effective and efficient transport system of the future.

Public authorities now work out policy priorities and instruments (programs, plans, etc.) to prepare necessary changes of:

  • the transport infrastructure,
  • the vehicles, and
  • the transport participants (user behavior and awareness) caused by the expected diversification of transport fuels and propulsion technologies.

Deriving from those plans, most governments are formulating mid- and long-term policy measures in order to:

  • stimulate the research, development, and demonstration (R&D&D) of new technologies
  • incorporate new technologies into existing transport systems, and
  • adapt the regulative framework.

The following descriptions provide a brief overview of the latest national policy activities in the US and Europe.

United States of America

The White House
The White House

The Obama administration is committed to addressing the issues of climate change, sustainable development, and the need to foster new and cleaner sources of energy aggressively and intelligently. "To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years," Mr. Obama said in a speech at George Mason University in January 2009. In the field of Energy and Environment, the administration has set the goal of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The executive Office for Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House formulated policy goals and measures to deliver the best science and technology results and to ensure evidence-based policy decisions. It set the following electric mobility-related policy goals, such as to:

  • implement a market-based cap-and-trade system and invest $150 billion over 10 years in advanced energy technologies;
  • establish a national low carbon fuel standard and institute a national portfolio standard that requires 25 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025;
  • double fuel-economy standards within 18 years and get 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015;
  • set an example - and help support new markets - by demanding that the federal government use renewable sources of electricity and by making federal buildings "zero-emission" by 2025.

In the field of vehicle technology, the Obama administration joins forces to raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards from the current 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 24 mpg for light trucks, up to 35.5 mpg (6.72 liters per 100 kilometers) by 2016, beginning with 2012 model cars. A joint proposal for an ambitious new interagency program that addresses climate change and energy security was brought forward by US Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in mid-September 2009. This program would surpass the CAFE law passed by Congress in 2007, which required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg in 2020 and would require model year 2016 vehicles to meet an estimated combined average emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile (155g CO2/km).

Generally, the Obama administration puts a strong focus on creating smart policies to guarantee policy leadership that understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation in order to create new jobs, improve the environment, help solve the energy crisis, reduce health care costs, and stimulate economic growth. These policies will be prepared by highly qualified public servants of the administration in cooperation with the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to deliver scientific evidence for decision makers. So, it is not surprising that the electrification of vehicles - as a technologically promising and organizationally challenging issue for the mobility of the future - can be found in several new or adapted policies and policy instruments that are currently being coordinated and worked out by the administration or discussed on Capitol Hill. Important policies for the theme of electric mobility are the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the American Climate and Energy Security Act, and the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009. The most relevant policy administrations in this field are the Department of Energy (DOE) , the Department of Transportation (DOT) , and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) .

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The US Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with a total budget of $787 billion on February 13, 2009. Four days later, President Obama signed it into law. In the Recovery Act, three immediate goals are formulated:  to create new jobs and save existing ones, to spur economic activity and invest in long-term economic growth, and to foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending. The Recovery Act intends to achieve those goals by providing $288 billion in tax cuts, increasing federal funds and programs by $224 billion, and making $275 billion available for federal contracts, grants, and loans. Accompanying all spending, projects' status and jobs created will be reported quarterly and posted on Recovery.gov for transparency reasons.

Electric mobility-related issues appear under several headings, but primarily under energy (totalling $61.3 billion) and Infrastructure investments (totalling $80.9 billion). In detail, funding is provided for electric vehicle technologies ($400 million), federal vehicle fleets - to cover the cost of acquiring electric vehicles - including plug-in hybrid vehicles ($300 million), state and local governments to purchase energy efficient vehicles ($300 million), electric smart grid ($11 billion), renewable energy and electric transmission technologies loan guarantees ($6 billion), and modernizing the nation's electrical grid and smart grid by the Office of Electricity and Energy Reliability ($4.5 billion). The electric mobility-related funds will mainly be administered by the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency and its affiliated institutions. Special attention to battery production is given within the DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program ($16.8 billion), which will provide grants totalling $2.0 billion available for the manufacturing of advanced batteries and components, and facility-funding awards to manufacturers of advanced battery systems and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States, including advanced lithium ion batteries, hybrid electrical systems, component manufacturers, and software designers.[1]

American Climate and Energy Security Act

The US House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Act) on June 26 by a vote of 219 to 212. The bill contains five distinct titles: I) clean energy, II) energy efficiency, III) reducing global warming pollution, IV) transitioning to a clean energy economy, and V) agriculture- and forestry-related offsets. Title I contains provisions related to a federal renewable electricity and efficiency standard, carbon capture and storage technology, performance standards for new coal-fueled power plants, R&D support for electric vehicles, and support for deployment of smart grid advancement. Title II includes provisions related to building-, lighting-, appliance-, and vehicle-energy efficiency programs.[2]

Promoting electric mobility is encouraged by cost recovery for electric vehicle infrastructure deployment, establishing a program by the Secretary of Energy that assists the deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV's) by providing financial assistance to state or local governments, industry or entities, or individual persons for the deployment of electrical charging stations for PHEVs; Smart Grid equipment and infrastructure to facilitate the charging and grid integration of PHEVs; as well as projects to support the large-scale deployment of PHEVs. Furthermore, programs are foreseen that provide financial assistance to PHEV and electric vehicle manufacturers for the reconstruction or retooling of manufacturing facilities in the United States and, if appropriate, the purchase of domestically produced vehicle batteries. In addition, the total amount authorized for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program is proposed to be increased from $25 billion to $50 billion.[3]

Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009

On September 16, 2009, the House of Representatives approved a $3 billion proposal for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009 brought forward by the Science and Technology Committee Member representative Gary Peters. The proposal was approved by an overwhelming majority of 312 to 114 votes in the House which sent a strong signal for Senate lawmakers to act. The bill anticipates a comprehensive, long-term, sustained funding of public-private vehicle research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities in the Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Program. The bill authorizes $550 million for the fiscal year 2010, increasing by $10 million every year through fiscal year 2014, for all vehicle technology programs at DOE. "Of that total, $200 million will be for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles, $30 million will be for user facilities, and $20 million will be for a non-road pilot program (e.g., construction and agricultural vehicles). The remaining $300 million will go toward diverse passenger and commercial vehicle technologies, such as the hybridization or full electrification of vehicle systems to reduce gasoline use."[4]

European Union

European activities - European Green Car Initiative
European Policy Activities towards E-Mobility, like the Green Car Initiative

The European Union (EU) is committed to fighting climate change and promoting renewable energy up to 2020 and beyond. In December 2008 the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on a "climate action and renewable energy package"[5] that will help Europe transform into a low-carbon economy and increase its energy security. The package focuses on three areas: emissions cuts, renewables, and energy efficiency - and has formulated a 20-20-20 target. This means the EU aims at a 20 percent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency by 2020, a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions - based on 1990 levels - by 2020, and a 20 percent increase in use of renewable energy by 2020.[6] Furthermore, Europe is setting a legislative framework to reach the objective of 120g/km CO2 emissions from the road transport sector by 2012. These targets set the frame for several European policy instruments that relate to electric mobility, such as the Green Car Initiative (GCI), the EU's Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7), the European Technology Platforms (ETPs), and Joint Technology Initiatives/Undertakings (JTIs, JUs), or the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP).

The European Green Cars Initiative

The European Green Cars initiative is one of the three public-private partnerships, besides the "European energy efficient buildings initiative" and the "Factories of the future initiative," included in the European Commission's recovery package[7]. A total budget of about €5 billion is foreseen for this initiative to boost the automotive industry in current times and to support the development of new, sustainable forms of road transport. The GCI consists of three main streams of action, namely loans provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) with a total amount of €4 billion for transport research & innovation, a research and development (R&D) part with contributions from EU's FP7 and equal contributions from the private sector, and demand-side measures & public procurement, such as reduction of circulation and registration taxes for low-CO2 cars. The Green Car Initiative provides funds and loans for its five main areas of research, namely electric and hybrid vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels, improvements in the internal combustion engine, and logistics with a increasing budget over several years (2010 ~ 95 million; 2011 ~ €115 million; 2012 ~ €145 million; 2013 ~ €145 million). Research on electric and hybrid vehicles is mainly focused on high density batteries, electric engines, and smart electricity grids and their interfaces with vehicles.

The Seventh Framework Program (FP7)

The European Seventh Framework Program The Seventh Framework Program (€50 billion, 2007-2013) bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof under the four categories Cooperation, Ideas, People, and Capacities, covering several objectives that correspond to the main areas of EU research policy. FP7 provides R&D&Demonstration funds for various themes related to electric mobility, which are addressed in several coordinated calls for research proposals in the thematic areas Transport (€4.1 billion), Energy (€2.3 billion), and Information and Communication Technologies (€9.1 billion). Details of currently opened EU calls can be found on CORDIS, "Europe's gateway to European research and development."

European Technology Platforms / Joint Technology Initiatives/Undertakings

Logo of European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) Electric mobility issues are also intensively dealt with in several policy platforms like European Technology Platforms and Joint Technology Initiatives and Joint Undertakings. The European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) was established to mobilize all stakeholders, develop a shared vision, and ensure timely, coordinated and efficient application of research resources to meet the continuing challenges of road transport and European competitiveness. It consists of more than 50 member organizations representing all sectors of the road transport industry, non-governmental organizations, Member States, and the European Commission. Together, ERTRAC provides a strategic vision for the road transport sector with respect to research and development, defines strategies and roadmaps to achieve this vision through the formulation and maintenance of a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and Strategic Research Recommendations (SRR), and stimulates increased effective public and private investment in road transport research and development.

JTI The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU) is a unique public-private partnership supporting research, technological development, and demonstration (RTD) activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. Its aim is to accelerate the market introduction of these technologies, realizing their potential as an instrument in achieving a carbon-lean energy system.

Latest developments in European Member States

All 27 Member States of the European Union have to implement the supra-national policy settings of the EU via national policies. Furthermore, the Member States may formulate more ambitious goals than the European ones or implement complementary policy measures and instruments on the national level with specific foci. Consequently, the national policies and respective instruments/funds play a major role in Europe. In the case of R&D funds, this means that approximately 80 percent of public R&D funding in Europe is provided nationally by the Member States and 20 percent is provided by intergovernmental funds and the European framework program[8]. This is especially relevant for new societal or technological challenges, as is the case with electrification of the transport system, because national activities and funding sources are often more rapidly implemented and more effective for specific new initiatives.

Currently many European countries are adjusting their policy priorities or developing roadmaps and implementation plans for the introduction of electric mobility, as is described for Austria. The subsequent tables provide a structured snapshot of policy actors and instruments in Austria and some other pioneering countries in the EU - Germany, France, and the United Kingdom - that have presented their national activities.


Austria is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 16 percent by 2020 (based on 2005) and has agreed in the Kyoto protocol to reduce GHG by 13 percent by 2020 (based on 1990), compared to the 8 percent EU average. Current greenhouse gas emission trends and projections show that Austria's average emissions will be higher than this ambitious Kyoto target[9].

Austria is providing funds for the technological development and implementation of electric mobility technologies and is currently formulating a national electric mobility implementation plan. Actual policy instruments for R&D and the implementation of electric vehicles and infrastructure are the national programs A3plus, energy systems of the future, and Klima:aktiv with a total funding of approximately €30 million per year. These programs are set up by the Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW). The Austrian climate and energy fund, set up by BMVIT and BMLFUW, provides about €120 million per year. Furthermore, the Ministry of Science and Research (BMWF) and the Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth (BMWFJ) are dealing with the policy frame in this thematic field.

Austrian Mobile Power
Austrian Mobile Power

In addition, top-notch Austrian companies from energy, industry, and research have formed a platform named Austrian Mobile Power with the aim of leading Austria into the age of electromobility, along an industrial roadmap and a master plan for an Austrian mobile power region.

Public policy player

Policy instruments
(related to e-mobility)

  • A3plus - Alternative Propulsion Systems and Fuels Programe
    (2007-2013, approx. €5 million per year)

National specifics & latest developments


E-Mobility Berlin: Electro Smart in front of the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin
E-Mobility Berlin

In mid-August 2009, the German Federal Government adopted a National Development Plan for Electric Mobility (NEPE). It was developed jointly by four Federal Ministries and is setting out a coordinated policy frame for the national instruments and funds that promote research and development, market preparation, and the market introduction of battery-powered vehicles in Germany.

Public policy player


Policy instruments

(related to e-mobility)
National specifics & latest developments


  • NOW! Nationale Organisation Wasserstoff und Brennstoffzellentechnologie; The national organization for hydrogen and fuel cell technology is a strategic program management agency and is managing program funds of about €500 million for hydrogen and fuel cell technology development (for BMVBS and BMWi) as well as program funds of about € 500 million for lithium-ion battery developments (for BMWi).
  • E-mobility regions in Germany, announced by BMVBS:
–    Berlin/Potsdam,
–    Bremen/Oldenburg,
–    Hamburg,
–    München,
–    Rhein-Main,
–    Rhein-Ruhr (focusing on Aachen and Münster),
–    Sachsen (focusing on Dresden and Leipzig),
–    Stuttgart.




Large-scale tests with Renault-Nissan in Paris - An electric cable is attached to the side of a car. Renault-Nissan will hold large-scale tests for its new electric cars in the Paris and Milan
Large-scale tests with Renault-Nissan in Paris.

France presented a national plan consisting of 14 points to accelerate the development and subsequent commercialization of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in France. The French government aims to invest in the establishment of charging infrastructure, battery plants, new vehicles and mobility solutions, and large-scale demonstrators as well as public fleet procurement.

Public policy player

Policy instruments
(related to e-mobility)

  • "low CO2 vehicles" Programe; priorities regarding "green cars":
-         R&D for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,
-         Platforms (infrastructures) for R&D,
-         Plan for refueling infrastructures,
-         Actions to create the market.
  • R&D Budget regarding "green cars"; 2008-2012 : €400 million
-         Programme de recherche et d'innovation dans les transports terrestres - PREDIT program (ANR, Ademe , MinEIE): €200 million
-         Fund for demonstrators (Ademe): €100 million
-         Platforms: €100 million
  • France's 14-Point Plan to Accelerate Development of Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids (> €1.5 billion untill 2020)

National specifics & latest developments

  • Large scale demonstration projects are announced in the regions:
    –    Paris (+16 surrounding cities)
    –    Strasbourg (Plug-in rechargeable hybrid electric vehicles)
  • Renault will establish a Li-ion battery factory in Flins, public funds will be provided.
  • Daimler will build the electric Smart ForTwo in Hambach.

United Kingdom

Londons large-scale electric vehicle demonstration
London's large-scale electric vehicle demonstration.

The UK's Department for Transport published UK's Carbon Reduction Strategy for Transport with the document "Low carbon transport: a greener future" in July 2009. It is designed to enable the UK to meet the requirements of the carbon budgets set under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Public policy player

Policy instruments
(related to e-mobility)

  • Program: “Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicles” (includes funds for R&D, demonstration projects and procurement bonuses for Light commercial vehicle - LCV’s). Priorities towards “green cars” are:
–    Ultra low carbon vehicle
–    Plug-in hybrids
–    Electric Vehicles
–    Electrification infrastructure
  • New „Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Grant Programme“; coordinated by the UK Center of Excellence for Fuel Cells and Low Carbon Technology – Cenex; (funding for new EV’s and loading infrastructure)
  • UK budgets regarding “green cars”: 2008 – 2012: £350 million (approx £120 million on RD&D and approx £ 250 million for consumer incentives for EV’s and PHEV’s).

National specifics & latest developments

  • Policy target: 80% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050 (Climate Change Act 2008)
  • UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme; Managed by UK’s Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies (CENEX)
  • E-mobility region:
–    London (Target 100.000 EV’s, 25.000 loading stations till 2015)


All these national activities show the strong will of national policy makers, research institutions, and the industry to set actions towards the electrification of future mobility. The policy makers' challenge for the upcoming years will be to coordinate policy actions within the countries, to further improve the interdisciplinary cooperation of actors and, most importantly, to strengthen these innovation-friendly policy frameworks jointly on both sides of the Atlantic.

* * *

The author, Heimo Aichmaier, works at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology where he is in charge of developing national research, technology, and innovation strategies in the automotive sector as well as setting up new policy cooperation activities between Austria, European Member States, and the US. He was assigned to the Office of Science & Technology at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC, from September 2009 to January 2010.
He can be reached at heimo.aichmaier(at)bmvit.gv.at



[1] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Chapter H. R. 1-24.

[2] Pew Center on Global Climate Change, At a Glance - American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 , Arlington June 2009

[3] Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Pew Center Summary of H.R. 2454: ACESA (Waxman-Markey) As Passed, 2009

[4] Science and Technology - Press Releases from the Democratic Caucus, Committee on Science, September 16, 2009

[5] European Commission, DG Environment, The Climate action and renewable energy package .

[6] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, 20 20 by 2020 - Europe's climate change opportunity, COM(2008) 30 final, Brussels, 23.1.2008.

[7] Communication from the Commission to the European Council, A European Economic Recovery Plan, COM(2008) 800 final, Brussels, 26.11.2008.

[8] European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, A more research-intensive and integrated European Research Area - Science, Technology and Competitiveness key figures report 2008/2009 (EUR 23608 EN), Brussels, 2008.

[9] European Environment Agency (EEA), Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2009 - Tracking progress towards Kyoto targets, EEA Report No 9/2009, ISSN 1725-9177, Copenhagen, 2009.