Road transport fuel distribution infrastructure programme guides the development of distribution infrastructure for new fuels
On 29 March 2023, the Ministry of Transport and Communications published a distribution infrastructure programme for new fuels in road transport. The programme extends to 2035.
The programme examines the current state of the infrastructure for distributing electricity, methane and hydrogen for transport use and the state of the vehicle fleet utilising these. It also presents the necessary measures for market development. The purpose of the distribution infrastructure programme is to promote the green transition in the transport sector. To make new transport fuels available for households and businesses across Finland, a nationwide and fluent distribution network is needed. The distribution infrastructure for new fuels and the development of vehicles utilising these are closely linked, and both must be promoted in parallel.
The programme is also intended to promote the implementation of the EU Regulation on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR Regulation) and to serve as the foundation for the monitoring activities required by the Regulation. The proposal for a Regulation stipulates requirements concerning the minimum level of distribution infrastructure. A provisional agreement on the proposed legislation was reached on 28 March 2023.
The programme examines the current state of the distribution of electricity, hydrogen and gas
The public charging infrastructure for electric passenger cars and vans has developed well. The programme sets more ambitious targets than the upcoming AFIR Regulation with the aim that public charging needs will be comprehensively met, even outside main roads. The goal is to ensure that charging infrastructure is built throughout Finland. Targets are also set for the number and placement of high-power charging points to enable transport operations over long distances.
There is currently no public charging infrastructure for heavy-duty transport. While the electrification of bus traffic in cities has progressed quickly, buses are primarily charged at depots. The rate of electrification is expected to accelerate in short-distance transport. Public charging infrastructure is necessary for enabling heavy-duty electric vehicles to operate across larger distances.
Using hydrogen is the most appropriate option in use cases where direct electrification is not possible. This particularly applies to heavy-duty vehicles used in challenging transport operations. There is currently no public hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in Finland, nor are there any hydrogen-powered heavy-duty vehicles. The development of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is a precondition for the more widespread use of hydrogen vehicles.
The methane distribution network is sparse and mainly located in southern Finland. In the programme, the need for methane distribution infrastructure is assessed on the basis of the targeted number of methane-powered vehicles, and targets are set for the number of distribution stations for renewable methane.
Key measures for distribution infrastructure development
The national distribution infrastructure programme proposes a number of measures for developing the distribution infrastructure of new fuels.
1. Funding to support development
The aim is for the development of distribution infrastructure to be primarily market-based. Where the conditions for market-based development are not yet in place, public funding and other measures to promote development are needed. AFIR compliance must be taken into account in granting infrastructure subsidies.
The development of electric charging infrastructure for passenger cars and vans requires that transport infrastructure subsidies are allocated to the creation of high-power charging infrastructure. Subsidies for home and workplace charging are also still necessary.
Promoting the new distribution infrastructure for heavy transport requires estimated public funding of EUR 61–95 million by 2030. The exact need for public funding will likely be determined later in 2023 when the negotiations concerning the AFIR Regulation are completed. Concurrently with providing subsidies for distribution infrastructure, subsidies need to be provided for the acquisition and use of heavy-duty vehicles utilising new fuels.
2. The needs of heavy-duty transport must be taken into consideration
Satisfying the minimum requirements set out in the AFIR Regulation may not necessarily, in all respects, cover the needs associated with the green transition of heavy-duty transport. The situation must be monitored and the targets need to be updated as necessary.
The shared use of distribution infrastructure between passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles must be promoted. This will improve the profitability of charging infrastructure projects for heavy-duty transport. The capacity of electricity distribution networks also presents challenges, particularly with regard to the implementation of charging locations for heavy-duty transport. Cooperation with charging operators and electricity distribution system operators is important and should start from the project planning phase.
Charging and refuelling infrastructure for heavy-duty vehicles also requires a significant amount of space. These challenges should be addressed in land use planning.
3. Data and technology must be harnessed to support the development of more consumer-friendly infrastructure
Consumers must have access to digital and up-to-date information on charging and refuelling stations. In addition to providing information on location, charging capacity and the number of charging points, it is essential to include information on whether each charging station is currently operational. Opportunities to improve the provision of roadside information should also be explored.
Consumers should be given the opportunity to pay for charging and refuelling by means of bank cards at more stations.
4. The development of distribution infrastructure needs to be monitored
It is important to monitor the development of congestion at charging stations in high-traffic areas and the creation of charging infrastructure in lower-traffic areas. Potential follow-up measures to support the development of distribution infrastructure need to be assessed and deployed in accordance with the needs identified through the monitoring activities.
From the perspective of operational reliability, it is key to ensure that there are alternatives to charging and refuelling stations, even in the same geographic areas. Situations where a particular area is served by a single charging or refuelling station should be avoided.
Provisional agreement was reached on the AFIR Regulation on 28 March. Upon its entry into force, the Regulation will establish a minimum level for the public distribution infrastructure of alternative fuels. The distribution infrastructure programme is aimed at ensuring that the requirements set out in the proposal for the AFIR Regulation are met in Finland, and that the minimum level is exceeded where necessary.
The distribution infrastructure programme will be updated and implemented in accordance with the decisions of the next Government. The distribution infrastructure needs concerning new fuels in marine and air traffic will be assessed in 2023–2024. The aim is to include all forms of transport in a single national programme as required by the AFIR Regulation.
Going forward, the goals and development of distribution infrastructure for new fuels need to be examined as part of national transport system planning, which is referred to as Transport 12 planning.
Päivi Antikainen, Director of Unit, tel. +358 50 382 7101, [email protected], Twitter @PaiviAntikainen
Tuuli Ojala, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 50 563 8130, [email protected], Twitter @OjalaTuuli