VW's 'dieselgate' puts spotlight on electric cars in Germany

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently complained the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines &quot
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently complained the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines "could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme"

The pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen is turning up the heat on the German government to make more determined headway in its self-declared "electromobility" goals, analysts say.

The "bitter irony" of the scam that has rocked the automobile sector around the world and plunged the once-respected carmaker into a major crisis, is that the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines "could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme," complained Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently.

Over the past six years, Berlin has put up 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for research into an electric car, the minister pointed out. And her ministry is looking into a series of measures to promote the electric car, such as tax incentives and purchase subsidies.

Her colleague at the Economy Ministry, Sigmar Gabriel, has said he was ready to support financial incentives, without specifying what form they should take.

And he is in favour of introducing quotas for in the car fleets of public authorities, with the aim of boosting demand.

Such ideas are enthusiastically welcomed by VDIK, the association of international motor vehicle manufacturers, which is calling for a purchase discount of "at least 5,000 euros" per electric car during a still undefined "transition period."

In 2009, the German government formulated a goal to have around one million electric cars on the road by 2020. And it restated that target earlier this year.

But the goal is looking increasingly ephemeral and at the half-way point, the concrete numbers are woefully short of target, with a meagre 19,000 vehicles on the roads in Germany in September 2015.

The government's goal "is quite simply not achievable," said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Research in Bergisch Gladbach.

There was "a lot of euphoria, but no vision for a feasible economic model" for the electric car in Germany, he complained.

German-made electric cars are displayed in front of the Berlin Congress Centre during a two-day national conference on "Ele
German-made electric cars are displayed in front of the Berlin Congress Centre during a two-day national conference on "Electro-mobility" or electric vehicles

'Concerted action'

The VW scandal may provide a chance to restart the electromobility debate in Germany.

"But for that, real concerted action is needed between automakers, suppliers and the authorities," Bratzel said.

Offering car buyers a purchase discount would likely prove only a flash in the pan with regard to kickstarting overall demand, the expert argued.

The main determining factors for the lasting success of electric vehicles would be considerations of "battery autonomy, infrastructure and price," Bratzel insisted.

Public subsidy of any electromobility initiative remains controversial.

The opposition environmentalist Green party is calling for a general overhaul of the system of taxes for vehicles, arguing that powerful, big-cylinder and pollutant engines should face the highest levies.

But that is a road the government appears reluctant to go down.

Instead, Berlin announced, just a week after the VW scandal broke, the construction of 400 battery-charging stations for electric cars at motorway service stations by 2017, as well as a number of "privileges" for electric vehicles on public roads.

They would, for example, be allowed to use bus lanes and benefit from free parking in towns and cities.

However, at the end of the day, it is the local and municipal authorities that have the final word on such initiatives and they "have no interest in jamming the bus lanes with private cars, even if they are electric cars," said Bratzel.

As time progresses and the dream of electromobility remains pie-in-the-sky, environmentalist groups are losing patience.

"Every year, Germany squanders seven billion euros on privileges for diesel, which is a pollutant technology," said Daniel Moser, who is responsible for transport issues at Greenpeace Germany.

The activists believe it will simply not be enough to transfer the privileges to electric vehicles.

What was needed was an entire ecological urban transport system, ranging from trams, to bicycles and electric buses, "not just more private clogging up towns," Greenpeace said.


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Citation: VW's 'dieselgate' puts spotlight on electric cars in Germany (2015, October 21) retrieved 21 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-10-vw-dieselgate-spotlight-electric-cars.html
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Oct 21, 2015
What would be the point of sinking billions of euros into an electric car program, when there are not good enough batteries to be had?

The basic technology isn't there yet, and there are serious supply shortage issues with lithium if we ramp up production of existing technologies. We need more fundamental research before moving on to full-scale production of electric cars, and that includes looking into the possibility that electric cars may be a bad idea with too many practical problems in the first place.

The politicians are just jumping the gun, or more likely just looking for a way to give subsidies to their buddies in the industries in the full knowledge that they probably won't accomplish anything.

If you want to spend billions, spend them on universities and research facilities. When they come up with the working solutions, you don't need to subsidize or fund anything else: when electric cars become actually feasible, the industry will self-start.


Oct 21, 2015
In an ideal world, 'sinking billions of euros into an electric car program' would involve a lot of the money going directly to battery research, but for reasons you so pessimistically err, Eikka, that probably won't happen.

Oct 21, 2015
What would be the point of sinking billions of euros into an electric car program, when there are not good enough batteries to be had?

If there are enough charging stations then batteries do not need to outperform a gas tank. The vastly overwhelming part of trips are short trips (work, shopping, getting the kids to soccer practice, whatnot). The 'big road trip' is a myth of the past. There are much better alternatives for such distances available in germany (trains/trams and long range busses)
For the few times it's actually needed we implement car pool strategies. It makes very little sense to lug around a lot of weight - burning energy all the time - just on the off chance that one might have to go 500km in a day.

Oct 21, 2015
I suggest they take the money squandered on new nukes, which are well over budget and late, and use it for sensible improvements in alternative energy and electric charging stations.

Vogtle in Georgia now is projected to cost 13 cents/kWh, and that is if they can run it for 50 years. Would you like to pay three to four times the regular wholesale cost for 50 years to cover the mistakes of corporate bureaucrats?

Oct 21, 2015
My question above got a "one" rating. I guess the rater really does want to pay 3-4 times the regular cost of electricity so he can have that nuke stuff, . . plus the waste.

But alternative energy is the most appropriate source for power to electric vehicles. I guess some folk do not want to be clean.

Oct 24, 2015
I still think the car companies should get together or either the governments and require vehicle designs where the battery can be slid right out the back and a charged one slid back into place.

It should be a standardized electrical hookup and fit in a standardized space. Make the rest of the car look how they want but that part should be standard. That way we will get the equivalent of gas stations again where all you have to do is pull into the station, the battery is swapped out in just a couple of minutes and you pay for a full charge.

The station then charges that battery in preparation for the next customer when it's fully charged again. A station might keep 20 batteries or so in stock all charged or in stages of being charged.
We could still use the cable charger hookup but traveling problems would be solved the other way and create a lot of new business's at the same time. If the gov wants to get involved as usual, that would be the area for them to do so

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