E-car Quotas

Right Plug, Wrong Socket

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    After general elections in fall this year, a new government could implement additional environmental or car regulations, affecting domestic and foreign carmakers active in Germany.

  • Facts


    • Germany has pledged to put 1 million electric cars on the roads by 2020, but at the start of 2016, only 25,502 fully electric cars and 130,365 hybrids were registered.
    • The German government fears the country’s car industry might not be a key supplier in 10 or 20 years if its local producers BMW, VW, Daimler and Opel fail to successfully sell electric cars.
    • The government launched a subsidy program in May, giving e-car buyers up to €4,000, or $4,198, when they buy an electrically powered vehicle.
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main DISTORTED source Jan Woitas DPA M – BMW i3 electric car 2016 charging 62827129e-car auto vehicle
Filling up, electric car style. Source: DPA

Many environmentally minded politicians share an urge to force people to do what’s good for them. In this respect, Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, is no exception.

The center-left Social Democrat politician has clearly demonstrated this with her quotas proposal to help electro-mobility achieve a breakthrough.

The reality is sobering. All of 11,400 new electric cars made it onto the streets of Germany last year, almost 1,000 less than 2015. This shows that a breakthrough in electrically powered vehicles in Germany is as far off as a ban on gasoline-guzzling pickups in the United States.

CO2 caps as a control instrument have a decisive advantage over an electric car quota: They are unbiased concerning technologies.

What could be more natural than wanting to help the sales of e-cars? The idea was quickly hatched to gain the politically desired market penetration with quotas for electric cars.

Quota regulations are, of course, nothing bad per se. Anyone who knows the way things went wrong in the promoting of renewable energies in the electricity sector, for example, most certainly have a longing at some point or other for a quota to replace the numerous conflicting legal regulations.

But it’s a different matter in the transport industry. There is already an instrument in place there that is fundamentally suited to achieve climate protection goals. It is the system of upper limits for carbon dioxide emissions in the automotive industry in force Europe-wide.

Although it is unfortunately true that the transport sector’s CO2 emissions in Europe are tending to go up instead of down despite the CO2 caps, it isn’t a weakness of the instrument but rather a problem in its application.

Shockingly Low Germanys Electric Car Market-01 e-car

Lawmakers haven’t taken due account of the growing volume of traffic in their decisions; moreover, they have allowed themselves to be too greatly influenced by automobile industry lobbyists in the continual adjustment of the CO2 limits. But that can be changed.

CO2 caps as a control instrument have a decisive advantage over an electric car quota: They are unbiased concerning technologies.

The fixation on electric cars has certainly taken on manic traits among some politicians. Those wanting to have the transport industry completely electric right now and not later, however, will stifle the cost-effective and efficient alternatives.

Why shouldn’t natural gas-powered vehicles, for example, at least be used as an alternative for a transitional period? Their CO2 balance is considerably better than those of diesel and gasoline engines. For certain uses, such as in freight transport, they are foreseeably the only alternatives anyway to conventional combustion engines for many years to come.

Anyone wanting to perform a service as an environmentally conscious politician, shouldn’t be thinking now about electro quotas but instead be making sure that the CO2 caps are not just met and maintained on the test bench but also in everyday life.


Klaus Stratmann covers the energy market and is deputy chief of Handelsblatt’s political desk in Berlin. To contact the author: stratmann@handelsblatt.com

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