Road charging for cars: What the European Commission should do

T&E are calling on the Commission to promote distance-based charging for passenger cars in the upcoming review of the Eurovignette Directive. This position paper and summary briefing paper (downloadable below) detail how charging road users for every kilometre that they drive can be a means to promote smarter transport behaviour and, if implemented correctly, increase the uptake of cleaner vehicles.

The EU should focus their efforts on ensuring that there is a harmonised system across Europe in terms of technology used for tolling. The TNO study commissioned by T&E (also downloadable below) outlines some of the technology options. This would greatly reduce the costs for member states to introduce road charging and would also remove certain complexities for users when crossing borders. OEMs should be mandated to equip new vehicles with accessible technologies required for tolling. Furthermore, to promote the adoption of tolls, money should be made available in the EU budget for member states to invest in tolling technologies.

Distance-based charging for all vehicles is complementary to fuel taxation. Fuel tax revenue is set to decrease by as much as €57 billion by 2030 due to more efficient cars and electric cars on the road. Distance-based tolls could encourage efficient and clean transport behaviour while generating income for the public budget.

The EU should also allow certain flexibilities for member states to alter their toll to account for drivers from low-income or rural areas where no sufficient alternative means of transport exist. The income generated from tolling could play a role in ensuring that any toll does not place an undue burden on such parts of Europe and can help them in transitioning to low-emission mobility.

Regarding the in-vehicle technology that is the basis of the toll, the EU should promote GNSS-based systems for all new cars. It is the most flexible and advanced technology on the market. It can be easily scaled to include other roads and it is cost-effective. The EU should include this in any consideration to mandate the fitting of "one box” in new vehicles, which includes basic components that provide different ITS applications. Privacy and data ownership should be key components when developing such technology requirements.