The new electromobility era
Contributed by Jacek Kosiński, Managing Partner in the law firm Jacek Kosiński Adwokaci i Radcowie Prawni.
Poland's president signed the Electromobility and Alternative Fuels Act, the main purpose of which is to create a favourable environment for the development of the alternative fuels market. The legislator aimed to launch by the end of 2020 the infrastructure necessary to drive – at least in urban and other densely populated areas – electric cars. This deadline is very tight, which is why performance of the plan requires rapid commencement of investment processes and their efficient implementation. At the same time, the legislator offered a number of preferences for the owners and users of vehicles powered by alternative fuels, which will certainly increase interest in this type of transport means.
Basic assumptions of the legislator
It is the first piece of legislation to comprehensively regulate the question of deployment of the infrastructure for alternative fuels in transport, the terms of providing services of charging electric vehicles, of fuelling vehicles powered by natural gas and the adoption of terms of operation of clean transport zones. The legislator very precisely defined the number of charging points which are to be established in Polish municipalities in less than two years from now. Their quantity was specified in proportion to the number of inhabitants and registered cars. It spans between 60 and 1,000 charging points per municipality. This obligation does not refer to municipalities with populations under 100,000. Obviously, investments of such type are costly, and the short period of their implementation necessitates practically instantaneous fundraising. As a result, the legislator laid down that territorial self-government units will be able to apply for subsidies targeted to such investments. Only in 2020 the maximum limit of expenses on the implementation of the tasks specified in the Act was scheduled at nearly PLN 14 billion.
At the same time, investors operating in municipalities obliged to ensure availability of charging points will have to prepare for changes in the design and erection of buildings. The Electromobility Act provides that in public and multi-family residential buildings it will be necessary to guarantee connection power permitting to furnish such buildings with appropriate charging points.
New obligations for the public sector
The Act imposes new obligations on government entities and self-government units, predominantly in respect of development of the infrastructure needed for the use of electric and hybrid cars. Apart from the abovementioned municipality tasks, the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways is obliged to draw up within the next five years a plan of generally accessible charging networks and natural gas fuelling stations along the most important traffic routes under its management. Besides, road traffic administrators will be obliged to arrange car parks at the charging stations. For his part, the minister responsible for energy is to prepare a national framework for the development of the infrastructure for alternative fuels, where the activities aimed at advancing electromobility in Poland are going to be precisely laid down. The duty to draw up this instrument arises directly under the Directive 2014/94 of the European Union on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.
Clean transport zones
The Act also furnishes municipal councils with new competences. By resolution, they will be able to establish clear transport zones, whose accessibility will be restricted for vehicles other than electric, powered by hydrogen or natural fuel. The legislator decided that such zone may cover densely developed residential areas where public buildings concentrate. It is a very capacious definition that refers not only to city centres. Non-compliance with the traffic restrictions in a clean transport zone was sanctioned by fine up to PLN 500.
Administration will set an example
The legislator did not settle with mere establishment of the infrastructure necessary for the advancement of electromobility but obligated government entities to take advantage of relevant technologies in their activities. Under the Act, the highest and central state authorities must ensure 50 percent participation of electric cars in their fleet providing transport to people. A similar obligation was also imposed on territorial self-government units. Where a given unit has more than 50,000 residents, the vehicle fleet of its office will have to include 30 percent of electric cars. On the other hand, in units with population under that threshold, it will be necessary to carry out public transport tasks with the use of at least 30 percent of vehicles which are either electric or powered by natural gas.
For certain, a stimulus for investments in electromobility will also be provided by facilitations in respect of driving such cars. For the next eight years, electric cars will be able to drive on bus lanes – which will significantly ease the life of their drivers in cities. On top of that, the legislator exempted electric vehicles from fees in paid parking zones, which, in turn, is going to reduce the costs of their exploitation, primarily in city centres. Incentives were also envisaged for the construction of charging points and stations – such investments will be exempt from the need to obtain authorization. Besides, electric cars and cars powered by hydrogen were exempt from the excise tax.