French report on future of alternative fuels

Inter-ministerial committee reviews government support, recommends further assistance

A French government plan to develop a long-term strategy to promote greener road vehicles has taken a step forward, with publication of a report on existing state support and recommendations for future policies. The report is the first to be produced by an inter-ministerial committee on green vehicles founded in 1999. It was finalised in June and has just been released by the environment ministry.

The study looks at vehicles powered by electricity, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). Reviewing current government support, including vehicle purchase grants, lower fuel tax and research funding, it concludes that there is still an "insufficient" level of penetration "to guarantee sustained commercial development".

Some success is reported for niche markets, including CNG-fuelled urban buses, for which the committee notes strong demand from local government agencies. But it finds continuing technical shortcomings in LPG-fuelled vehicles, which tend more often to be private cars.

A government target of having 100,000 electric vehicles on the roads by this year has proved wildly unrealistic, the committee notes. There are currently just 5,000. It recommends more research into electric hybrid vehicles as well as an extension of grants to the general public for the purchase of electric scooters. Grants for scooters are currently available only to local governments.

Follow Up:
French environment ministry, tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21, and the Green vehicles report.

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