While Germany is a nation of car lovers, it has not yet embraced the electric car revolution. Perhaps this is because it is already the most fuel-efficient country in the world but the EV industry would benefit greatly if Germany got on board. According to experts, attempts to increase public interest are likely to fall on deaf ears.
The speed of the Autobahn is not a place for slower electric cars. Image: Google UK
Back in 2009, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, set a target of 1 million electric cars on the road by 2020 which may prove difficult in a nation where there are motorways with no speed limit. Yet Alexander Dobrindt, Transport Minister, said he was confident the nation would reach that goal as he launched the German Government’s latest electromobility initiatives.
Yet Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, an expert at Duisburg-Essen University’s CAR Center for Automotive Research, believes this target is complete fantasy. He scoffed at the notion by saying it’s as likely as having 100,000 cars on the moon by 2020. At present, there are less than 17,000 EVs on German roads with 4 EVs for every 10,000 standard ones. This pales in comparison to France’s 10 in 10,000 ratio.
In Germany, owners of electric cars don’t have to pay road tax for 10 years but this incentive has cut little ice with the nation’s motorists. As a result, the Government revealed new draft legislation with the goal of giving the EV sector a much needed boost. The new initiative includes allowing electric car drivers to use inner-city bus lanes, free parking and the addition of new parking spaces close to recharging stations which can only be used by EVs.
Experts don’t believe the initiatives are enough because they are governed by municipal authorities. According to Stephan Articus of the Association of German Cities, ideas such as free parking and use of bus lanes are being met with scepticism by local towns and cities; not least the bus lane idea which would slow down public transport.
Matthias Wissmann, head of the VDA auto industry association, says the measures are not enough and must be followed up with more tax breaks for electric cars. The National Platform for Electromobility is a government advisory panel made up of representatives from research, industry, unions and politics and it is calling for tax cuts for companies with EVs in their fleet.
Yet the coalition government has ruled out financial aid such as bonuses for private car drivers. Valerie Wilms is the transport spokeswoman for Greens, the ecologist opposition party, and she says German carmakers are not advanced in this technology and this is why the Government is not acting. She believes it doesn’t want to favour foreign carmakers like Renault or Tesla. She continued by saying the Government must introduce incentives like they do in France and the United States or else the EV market will never grow.
A Slow Process
Germany is deemed to be the most energy efficient country in the world so one would imagine things will eventually change. German carmakers are beginning to get in on the EV act; Deimler has created an electric version of its Smart car, BMW has released the i3 and Volkswagen has created electric versions of its Golf and Mini models.
Yet BMW says the market is growing too slowly and lack of charging stations is a problem. For example, there are only 4,400 charging stations in Germany while France is due to have almost 16,000 by the end of 2014. Germany’s power companies want to get a share of the market but as they offer their own recharging system, it means drivers must find a compatible system when their car is running low on battery.
Dudenhoeffer said that Germans are not buying electric cars because of the long recharging time, low level of autonomy and high cost. He concluded by saying the latest Government initiatives do nothing to solve any of these problems.