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17 November 2023

Electrification, blind faith or the future that awaits us?

The automotive sector has undergone a radical transformation in recent years towards more sustainable mobility. The car hire sector is committed to generating a lower environmental impact, but the efforts of the sector and the entire value chain really need to be accompanied by real policies and action plans.

 

By Juan Luis Barahona

It cannot be denied that the automotive sector and the range of activities involved have been radically transformed in recent years. One of the essential features of the national economy and the undisputed generator of millions of direct and indirect jobs in Spain is experiencing unprecedented developments, at a precipitous speed, and in a volatile context. A changing environment focussed on building the foundations for a new mobility in which sustainable values that are aligned with the protection of our planet and the environment are at the forefront. A new mobility where there is room for a great diversity of technologies and where our main initial premise in order to achieve the goal of sustainability is first to be sustainable in economic terms.

A mobility of the future that those of us who are proud to be involved in this sector should not ignore, but should work on building bridges that help us move forward, seeking zero-emission mobility that will transform our cities into highly hyperconnected, clean, safe and sustainability-conscious environments.

A commitment for which the car hire sector, pioneers of shared mobility, is a flag-bearer. A real commitment that involves complying with European guidelines and making our sector an industry committed to the lowest possible environmental impact. It is a fact that rental vehicles have the least polluting fleet, given the rate at which they are renewed. We emit on average 14 grams less CO2 per kilometre travelled compared to the average of the rest of the vehicles that run on Spanish roads (we should not forget that average car in Spain is almost 14 years old). That is why it is important to point out that car hire, which means shared mobility, is part of the solution and not the problem. If there is one thing that can be attributed to our sector, it is that it is an important asset with regard its role in decongesting traffic, both around towns and within them, enabling users to dispense with owning vehicles and offering tourists a comfortable and easy experience

“The car hire sector, pioneers of shared mobility, is committed to achieving the lowest possible environmental impact”

Logically, the numerous efforts of the sector and the entire value chain really need to be accompanied by real policies and action plans. So we need to focus our objectives on solving Spain's main problems in this regard and focus on the main that is still pending: The momentum with regard to electrification in the Spanish market continues to be very weak, even more so if we make a comparison between ourselves and neighbouring European countries. If we are looking to turn theory into practice, if we would like to reach a higher level of penetration of zero-emission mobility services, our public infrastructure of charging stations needs to be greatly improved. In order to move forward, we need to do this together, hand in hand, and partners like Endesa strive every day to offer the best possible service to users.

Our Federation is in favour of establishing a Dissemination Plan for Electric Vehicles, which features the educational task of explaining to potential users how public access chargers operate, the type of recharging and their status. In the same way, Spain deserves a Plan for the Effective Deployment of Electric Charging Stations, which contemplates specific purposes that guarantee the coverage required to meet the objectives for the penetration of electric vehicles in Spain. It also need to include car parks at airports, ports and railway stations that provide suitable service both for car-hire companies and private individuals. Users also need to be given better and greater tax incentives for the acquisition and purchase of electric vehicles, together with an improvement in the customer experience (for example, by allowing payment with the usual methods).

And we should not forget subsidies for the acquisition of this type of electrified vehicle. Why are projects such as the MOVES Plan sometimes called into question? Why have a lower percentage than expected benefited from these subsidies? We strongly believe in an analysis that encompasses the problems that have made application difficult for private individuals, companies and large fleets.

And especially car hire companies need a super-reduced VAT rate for the purchase and hire of zero-emission vehicles, which is essential for both purchase and hire to avoid distortions in the market, even more so within a context in which this type of vehicle continues to suffer from a low level of penetration.

Spain deserves to have its own mobility model, and while taking into consideration the correct decisions made by neighbouring countries, it should act in accordance with its own needs and particularities. For example, we need a stable regulatory framework, capable of transmitting clear and unequivocal messages not only to the market but also in the social sphere. Once the new government has been defined, the draft Sustainable Mobility Law needs to be recovered, an excellent starting point to develop the following axes: The right to mobility, autonomy, multimodality, decarbonisation, innovation and digitalisation, inclusion and non-discrimination, and dialogue.

“We need a stable regulatory framework, capable of transmitting clear and unequivocal messages both to the market and society”

To successfully reach the goal without any kind of gap or breach, it is essential for there to be public-private collaboration. There needs to be greater coordination and regulatory homogeneity between all those involved in mobility. Rent-a-Car, citizens, technology and energy companies, car manufacturers, roads, DGT, AENA, ADIF, ports, main tourist attractions, Government, town halls, Autonomous Communities, etc. This is a new and very complex value chain, and with everyone's goodwill and coordination, we will certainly be able to position ourselves once more as a leading, cutting-edge industry in Europe.

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