On 8 November Siim Kallas Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport spoke at the EUCAR (European Council for Automotive R&D) reception in Brussels about the future challenges for the European automotive industry.

In his speech the Commissioner highlighted that the car and truck industry is fundamental to the EU economy as it grants employment and provides “means for millions of passengers to travel and for many thousands of businesses to prosper”.

According to Mr Kallas “innovation and investment” are the key concepts to keep European economy going and to assure competitiveness in a global market where car sales are forecast to increase by more than 10% in 2020 in respect to 2008. The Commissioner stressed that the EU competitors are “investing in low-carbon technologies in preparation for the shift towards cleaner road transport reflecting a visible global trend towards sustainable transport technologies”. The same actions should be taken in the EU.

A more environmentally-friendly approach should be considered as “energy-efficient vehicles will boost our industry’s competitiveness make Europe’s economy greener and more resource-efficient as well as create jobs”. However “the technical and economic uncertainties are still too high at this stage to rely on a single candidate for fuel substitution”.

That is why Mr Kallas highlighted that the real challenge will be to introduce new technologies substituting fuel gradually into the European market and this action “should be done at the same pace as the development of the technology”.

Siim Kallas briefly described the next steps planned by the European Commission in terms of transport policy. First of all the Commission will present its “strategic transport technology plan” (STTP) which will focus on “essential technologies over the whole product development chain based on a vision of an integrated efficient and environmentally friendly and safe European transport system by 2030”. Secondly the Commission has planned “an initiative on clean transport systems which will be a comprehensive long-term fuel strategy for gradually substituting fossil fuels with alternative energy sources”.

Mr Kallas concluded by underling that the Commission is investing a lot in research and innovation in particular in the promotion of smart transport systems. The use of intelligent transport systems (ITS) is crucial “to support the competitiveness and sustainable growth of the European automotive industry. And also to make our road transport cleaner safer and more efficient”. According to Siim Kallas “ITS has an enormously beneficial role to play in making our road transport ready for the future. Some applications are widespread and familiar such as on-board navigation systems installed in millions of cars and trucks which process real-time traffic and travel information. But science is moving ahead all the time adding more and more sophisticated applications to existing control functions. There is enormous potential”.

Nevertheless research and innovation alone cannot face and overcome future challenges; Mr Kallas appealed to change Europeans “travelling habits better combine road travel with different modes of transport such as rail and ensure all modes offer attractive options for passengers and freight. We must start thinking about transport as a network as a system rather than thinking in terms of individual transport modes”.

Read the full speech here.

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Original Publication Date: Mon 14 Nov 2011