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POLITICO Pro Morning Mobility: UK’s Jet Zero — Rail’s heat problem — Germany’s hydrogen issues

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Presented by GE.

By MARI ECCLES

with Joshua Posaner and Simon Van Dorpe

PRESENTED BY

—  The U.K. launches its “Jet Zero” aviation plan at the Farnborough airshow in Hampshire, but not everyone is happy.

—  The heatwave across Europe is causing big problems for transport companies, with speed restrictions on railways and “melting” runways.

—  Germany isn’t a big beneficiary of the push for hydrogen state aid, despite having instigated the plan.

Good morning, and welcome to Morning Mobility. Europe is in midst of a fierce heat wave. Want to ask our reporters about it? POLITICO Europe’s expert team will convene today at 5 p.m. for a Twitter Space on the heatwave and Europe’s policy response. Tune in here.

Tips to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. Tweet us @joshposaner, @hclae and @marieccles.

UK LAUNCHES JET ZERO PLAN: The U.K. government is expected to announce its “Jet Zero” strategy today at the Farnborough airshow in Hampshire, and to explain how it hopes to reach net-zero aviation in the U.K. by 2050. But the plan is already taking heat from climate campaigners who say ministers aren’t being honest about what it will take to achieve net-zero flying. NGO Aviation Environment Federation Director Tim Johnson said the strategy “avoids answering the difficult questions like the need to fly less, and calling a halt to airport expansions.”

What’s the plan? Not unlike the European branch of the industry, the U.K. government is expected to focus on a few pillars: advancements in technology, increasing sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), and carbon pricing. A commitment should also be forthcoming to inform customers of the CO2 footprints of their flights prior to purchase. 

SAFs lead off: Each day this week we’ll be exploring a theme coming out of Farnborough, and in light of the Jet Zero announcement  — and the heat — the decarbonization of aviation feels appropriate. The big question is how you actually get there. Today we’ll be focusing on SAFs after hearing from self-styled “market leaders” United Airlines, whose chief sustainability officer, Lauren Riley, told a panel Monday that despite the carrier’s focus on green fuels, SAFs make up less than 1 percent of its fuel mix. 

Scaling up: Willie Walsh, director of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) industry lobby, was particularly critical of the EU’s approach to scaling up sustainable aviation fuel. When the European Commission announced its SAF mandate at this time last year, it declared that it wanted to increase production to create a home-grown industry (most of the limited green fuel that is currently used in Europe is shipped over from the U.S.). The Commission plans to encourage that growth by forcing all but the smallest European airports to provide SAF-blended fuel (kerosene containing a proportion of SAF) as of 2025. But Walsh said the approach “doesn’t make sense,” adding: “You’re not going to produce it near every airport so you’re going to have to ship it. Does it really matter who uses it? The importance is that it’s used. If it’s produced near Heathrow, it should be used at Heathrow, rather than at Glasgow or Manchester, or even worse the Canaries, so they can say ‘we’re using it.’”

Encouraging production: One of the big challenges, according to Riley, is getting producers to actually make the stuff. Most SAF producers also make renewable diesel, she said, which is more profitable and easier to produce, leaving SAF an unattractive proposition. Policy measures such as tax credits for blending SAF ⁠— which is being advocated in the U.S. ⁠— could help, Riley suggested. 

Global vision: But the United Airlines executive also said similar measures need to be taken across the globe to avoid a patchwork approach. The EU is opting for mandates, but Jim Hileman, chief scientific and technical adviser for the environment at the Federal Aviation Administration regulator, said the U.S. prefers tax credits because they tend to get bipartisan support. 

Heating up: It was impossible to avoid the record temperatures in Farnborough. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, took fire for attending the show instead of a Cobra meeting on the heatwave; many attendees (myself included) missed Johnson’s morning speech because they were stuck in the queue for shuttle buses in the sweltering heat outside Farnborough station. We were told it was because Extinction Rebellion protests had brought the town to a standstill. One of the group’s activists, Marion, told us the protests were about “making this link between conflict and climate change.” Another activist, Steve, said he hadn’t wanted to wear black funeral attire on the hottest day in the U.K. records books, “but it’s that heat that is the very reason I did.”

HEATWAVE HELL: Soaring temperatures will cause major problems once again today for European transport companies, not least national railways. The U.K.’s aging rail network, for starters, is under speed restrictions over fears that tracks might buckle. Countries with more modern rail infrastructure don’t have that problem, but even they are still reducing services.

Brussels bubble: Belgium’s SNCB, to name one example, said it will cut 34 of its peak-hour rail services today and is strengthening its breakdown teams to deal with any problems. That’s because some of its older rolling stock is prone to malfunction in hot weather, the company said.

Quick fix: Part of the problem is that steel absorbs heat and then expands. Some track managers are trying to mitigate the problem by painting lines in the U.K. white — the color that absorbs the least heat — although that’s clearly not a long-term solution.

Plane crazy: It’s not just railways that are having issues: Britain’s Royal Air Force halted flights to and from the country’s largest air base at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, after the runway “melted,” according to Sky News. Luton Airport also suspended flights because of a “surface defect” on a runway.

**A message from GE: GE is developing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions for a more sustainable future of flight. This includes innovating advanced new engine architectures such as open fan through the CFM International joint venture, megawatt-class hybrid electric propulsion, advanced new engine core designs, and supporting alternative fuels research. Learn More.**

GERMANY STILL WAITING FOR HYDROGEN BIG BUCKS: Berlin was the main instigator of the push for state aid for hydrogen through the Important Project of Common European Interest framework, with the original hydrogen development manifesto signed in the final days of Germany’s 2020 EU presidency. But Germany has yet to reap the benefits of its leadership, even though the government has vowed to become the world’s number one in hydrogen technology as reported by our competition colleague, Simon van Dorpe, who’s been running the numbers.

Dwarfed by France: Of the 41 projects approved as part of the first “wave” of IPCEI Hydrogen, only six are based in Germany, compared to 15 in France and 10 in Italy. At an average €132 million per project (which adds up in France, where the total aid is around €2 billion), German state aid should amount to almost €800 million. A German economy ministry spokesperson could not confirm the exact amount. 

Mostly fuel-cell projects: Three of the German projects relate to Daimler’s “Pegasus” plan, by which the truck maker aims to decarbonize cross-border freight transport with fuel-cell technology; the plan is to be tested in Central Europe. Pegasus and BoschPowerUnits — a fuel-cell technology project by Bosch — are getting their funding from the economy and climate ministry, which is run by the Greens. The two remaining projects are sponsored by the digital and transport ministry, including EKPO’s “NextGen HD Stack,” which aims to develop a new generation of high-performance and energy-efficient fuel cell stack modules for buses, ships, trains and power generation.

Still in the fight: The German government is nevertheless sticking to its original plan of having €8 billion in state aid approved — meaning Berlin is expecting big checks to be handed out in the next waves. The second wave of industrial decarbonization projects, and the third wave on infrastructure, are “of great importance for Germany,” the transport ministry said, adding that a fourth wave of mobility applications is in the works. 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE €9 TICKET: Sticking with Germany, debate has now begun in earnest over what to do with the nationwide €9 monthly mass transport ticket, given that its three-month validity period ends on August 31. One lobby reckons that a €69 monthly pass would make sense, but that would still require a significant public subsidy.

Playing politics: The €9 ticket is the province of the transport ministry, which is controlled by the Free Democrats, and it’s not yet clear what will happen there. The Greens, which control the environment ministry and the larger economy and climate Ministry, favor boosting public transport. 

Taxi app Uber has lost a court case in the Netherlands in which it asked to be exempted from the taxi sector’s collective labor agreement. More from us.

Consumer rights association Euroconsumers is (again) asking Volkswagen to pay compensation to Belgian, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese motorists affected by the Dieselgate scandal following a recent European Court of Justice ruling on emissions cheating.

For those in Paris during the heat wave, The Local took a look at the best city metro lines to use when temperatures are soaring.

**A message from GE: GE shares another of the top innovations and industry-leading efforts in the march toward net-zero. The CFM RISE program. GE’s chief engineer Chris Lorence says the time for open fan is now. Why? Since GE first flew an unducted fan in the 1980s, the open fan engine design has been made simpler and lighter with new approaches such as single-stage rotating carbon fiber composite fan blades. He explains here. The open fan design is one of the advanced engine architectures CFM, a joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, is exploring through the CFM RISE Program. The parent companies launched in June 2021 the CFM RISE Program with a target of more than 20 percent better fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions compared to today’s engines. Technologies matured as part of the RISE Program will serve as the foundation for the next-generation CFM engine that could be available by the mid-2030s. Learn More.

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