Demand and pricing for novel products for which there is no history of market experience is always tricky. Existing studies of consumer demand for alternative fuels offer a reasonable consensus about which fuel characteristics are important but permit only a limited quantification of consumers’ willingness to pay for fuel attributes. In addition, some key characteristics of future alternative fuel vehicles are only approximately known until now. Regarding some alternative fuels, positive and negative characteristics of the fuel may offset each other to a substantial degree, leaving market share to be determined by price and intangible or unpredictable factors such as consumer perceptions of fuel “quality,” or individual willingness to pay for fuels with social rather than private benefits.
The EU institutions have recognized this, and the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive adopted in October 2014 now specifies in recital 51: “Simple and easy-to-compare information on the prices of different fuels could play an important role in enabling vehicle users to better evaluate the relative cost of individual fuels available on the market. Therefore, when fuel prices are displayed at a fuel station, in particular for natural gas and hydrogen, it should be possible for unit price comparison to conventional fuels, such as ‘1 petrol litre equivalent’, to be displayed for information purposes.” To this regard, Art. 7 para. 3 of the Directive states: “Where appropriate, and in particular for natural gas and hydrogen, when fuel prices are displayed at a fuel station, a comparison between the relevant unit prices shall be displayed for information purposes. The display of this information shall not mislead or confuse the user. To increase consumer awareness and provide for fuel price transparency in a consistent way across the Union, the Commission shall be empowered to adopt, by means of implementing acts, a common methodology for alternative fuels unit price comparison.”
In this framework the aims of this particular Programme Support Action (PSA) are:
- to support a consistent implementation in a pilot schema of the provisions of Article 7.3 of the Directive in the following Member States: Greece, The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Croatia, Portugal, France, Cyprus and Finland.
- to define the format, contents and location of the information to be displayed at the filling stations based on the methodology adopted by the Commission Implementing Regulation;
- to carry out pilot actions to assess consumer understanding/feedback/behaviour concerning the format, contents and location of the information to be displayed at the filling stations on fuel prices for comparison and to provide recommendations/guidelines for a harmonized implementation of Article 7.3 of the Directive. These recommendations will be presented to the Commission, for further discussion with the Member States and coherent application in all Member States;
- to support Member States in making information available to consumer at the filling/charging stations and also via digital tools. Consumers should be able to see the display of the different fuel prices either on the fuel station totem or at the pump. They should also be able to call a website or smartphone application that will be developed in the framework of the action.
The basic input of information and data will be collated through three sources: 1) available data from other EU actions and research projects, 2) in depth case study analysis of the proposed pilot schema and consumers feedback, 3) consulting the stakeholder network. The case studies will concern all levels of implementation, from the local, regional to the national and EU level, depending upon the jurisdictional and administrative structures of each country for different target groups of fuel stations in both urban, and rural areas.Specific actions will focus on the categorization of the consumers regarding fuel type consumption, from a consumer segmentation perspective that considers demographics, behaviours and lifestyles.
1: Dissemination of the fuel price methodology in each participating Member State
2: Definition of the contents, format and location of the information on fuel price for comparison, to be displayed at fuelling stations
3: Pilot action to test different options concerning format, contents and location of fuel prices for comparison at the filling stations
4: Consistent implementation of the provisions of Article 7.3 of the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Directive in all MS
5: Development of a portal/online tool to display fuel prices/costs