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Alternative fuels for transport

The legislation governing the transport sector sets out several types of 'alternative' energy sources. These are: electricity, natural gas (compressed or liquefied), liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen and biofuels.


An electric vehicle is defined as one that is totally or partially driven by an electric motor using chemical energy stored in batteries that are charged from an external power source. The definition of electric vehicles (EVs) contained in the legislations extends only to vehicles that require a charge point to power the batteries. Non plug-in hybrids are therefore not classed as EVs.


There are currently three main EV technologies on the market:

  • "Pure" battery electric vehicles (BEVs):

    Defined as being a vehicle driven entirely by an electric motor powered by batteries that are charged via a power point connected to the power grid. The range of the vehicle is limited by the capacity of its batteries. For most cars, it is currently between 150 and 400 km.
  • Extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs):

    A plug-in electric vehicle with a small combustion engine that drives a generator for battery charging. The propulsion is exclusively electrical, but the batteries are charged by the auxiliary combustion system. Such cars have a range of approximately 80 kilometres without requiring the generator engine to be run.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV):

    Vehículo que combina la propulsión eléctrica a partir de la energía almacenada en baterías y obtenida de la red, con la propulsión convencional. La autonomía eléctrica es mayor que en los híbridos convencionales (no enchufables), lo que disminuye sensiblemente su nivel global de emisiones respecto a ellos. Ofrece entre 15-50 km de autonomía en modo únicamente eléctrico.
  • Electric vehicles contribute to energy diversification in transport, thus reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.
  • They help foster more intelligent grid management by flattening the electricity consumption curve though night-time charging and they promote the introduction of renewables
  • They also reduce local and noise pollution in cities.
Carga rápida Vehículo eléctrico


As regards the charging infrastructure, it is important to note that 90-95% of charging operations for this type of vehicle are carried out in the garage “where they sleep“, usually at night, when the electricity demand is lower. The public infrastructure therefore plays a supporting role, to cover the remaining 5-10% of charging needs.

In private homes and companies, EVs can be charged at power points at between 3.7 and 22 kW. As a general rule, the higher the power, the faster the installation charges the vehicle.

The Basque Country has invested in promoting core installations in shared garages, through EVE's aid programme for efficient transport and mobility, which offers 100% grants for this type of project.

As regards the licenses required to install a private charging point, it is important to note that, under horizontal ownership (condominium) legislation, the only requirement for installing an EV charging point for private use in the car park of the building is that prior notice be given to the other residents, provided that the charging point is located in an individual garage space.

Charge types Connection Type Duration*
Slow charge AC single-phase Domestic plug 18 h
Normal Charge AC single-phase Garages 5-10 h
Semi-fast charge AC three-phase Rotation carpark, public road 2-5 h
Fast charge DC Service stations, rivate fleets 30-40 min**
Ultra-fast charge DC Service stations 5 min

(*) Estimated charging times for a 40 kWh battery

(**) Fast charge times are for 80% of battery capacity


Natural gas (NG) is a hydrocarbon which mainly contains methane. It is a fossil fuel but has the potential to play an important role in the introduction of renewable energy.

It is important to distinguish between filling stations offering compressed natural gas (CNG) and those that sell liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is more commonly used in heavy goods transport. The fact that a service station has one of these two types of pump does not necessarily mean that it also has the other.


  • Natural gas and electric mobility are complementary.
  • NG is currently the only alternative to diesel in heavy goods transport, compares well with it in terms of cost.
  • NG is an energy vector with great renewable potential through the use of biomethane and future renewable power surpluses in power-to-gas processes.

CNG and LNG filling stations are being rolled out at a relatively similar pace across the Basque Country.

For vehicle fleets, natural gas pumps are often installed on the organisation's own premises.

Mapa GNL


Bifuel vehicles can run on either petrol or LPG. in the Basque Country, more than 30 service stations now supply LPG. The infrastructure for refuelling with this alternative fuel is being developed by private enterprise.


High-concentration (85%) bioethanol is being used less and less in cars. The rate of 30% biodiesel is also falling consistently. The reason for this low uptake is the removal of the exemption from hydrocarbon tax, which means it is no longer economically competitive.
The EU directive requires minimum rates of 5% bioethanol in commercial petrol and 7% biodiesel in commercial diesel.

The table below outlines some of the advantages and disadvantage of each different kind of alternative energy:

Type of vehicle PROS CONS
Pure electric
  • No local pollutant emissions.
  • Lower net GHG emissions.
  • Low noise emmissions.
  • Paty renewable source.
  • Low running costs (1-2€/100 km) and maintenance.
  • Maximum range of around 400 km, which restricts its use for certain purpouses.
  • High initial investment.
  • Need for a night-time charging point for each vehicle.
Plug-in hybrid
  • Greater total range (petrol + electricity) than pure EVs.
  • Lower range in electrical mode, small electrical charging capacity.
Natural gas
  • Lower costs than petrol and diesel.
  • Non-petroleum source.
  • Low pollutant emissions compared to diesel and petrol.
  • Bi-fuel vehicles are petrol compatible.
  • It is a fossil fuel.
  • Few service stations (in process).
LPG or Autogas
  • Lower costs than petrol and diesel.
  • Bi-fuel vehicles are petrol-compatible.
  • Low pollutant emissions compared to diesel and petrol.
  • As a petroleum product, considered to have limited medium-term prospects.
  • Small number of filling stations.
  • Renewable energy.
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cost per km higher than conventional fuels.
  • Limited number of service stations.
  • Cultivation for biofuels competes with food production.
  • No local pollutant emissions.
  • Potentially renewable.
  • The technology is not commercial, and costs are very high.

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This is the attention service of the Basque Energy Agency.