The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said there would need to be an almost 50 fold increase in zero emission cars in circulation on the continent's roads in just 10 years to meet European Commission (EC) aims.

One of the key pillars of the EU's Sustainable and Smart Mobility Package, published by the European Commission on 9 December, is to boost the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, an objective the ACEA said is fully shared by the EU auto industry, which dedicates much of its yearly EUR60.9bn R&D budget to decarbonisation.

The commission paper lays out a bold ambition to have at least 30m zero emission cars on the road across the European Union by 2030.

"Unfortunately this vision is far removed from today's reality," said ACEA director general, Eric-Mark Huitema.

New ACEA research showed, of the 243m passenger cars on EU roads last year, less than 615,000 cars were zero emission vehicles (battery electric cars and fuel cell electric models combined) – roughly 0.25% of the whole car fleet.

"To meet the commission's objective, we would need to see an almost 50-fold increase in zero-emission cars in circulation on our roads in just 10 years," Huitema said.

Huitema added: "Despite industry investments in such vehicles and their growing market share, not all the right conditions are in place to make such a massive leap."

As recognised by the commission, an essential condition for zero emission mobility is the widespread availability of charging and refuelling infrastructure, both for passenger cars and heavy duty vehicles.

"The European Commission should match its level of ambition for rolling out infrastructure across the EU with its ambition for reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles. It is quite simple: the higher the climate targets become, the higher targets for charging points and refuelling stations should be. Unfortunately, we still see a mismatch between these two elements at EU level," Huitema said.

When it comes to infrastructure, the commission conservatively estimates that 3m public charging points will be needed by 2030. Given that last year less than 200,000 charging points were in place across the EU, this would require the deployment of 15 times more infrastructure over the next 11 years.

ACEA members are therefore once again calling EU legislators to push national governments to invest in charging and refuelling infrastructure, as part of an urgent and critical review of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID).

"Experience has shown us that a voluntary approach to these infrastructure targets does not work," said Huitema. "While some EU countries have been very active, others have done little or nothing. The AFID review really must include binding infrastructure targets for member states."

Besides infrastructure, other instruments are also required to encourage consumers to switch to zero emission mobility, such as more aggressive carbon pricing, the continuation of fleet renewal schemes, and supportive measures for up- and re-skilling workers to facilitate the transformation of the sector.

ACEA also pointed out the average European car is almost 11 years old today. Indeed, as a result of decarbonisation, new cars will become more expensive for many Europeans at a time when they have less money to spend because of the economic impact of COVID-19. This risks not only affecting the affordability of mobility, but also driving up the average age of cars, thus slowing down fleet renewal.