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Merkel, Carmakers Hope To Jump-Start E-Cars

e-car pump- DriveNow
The German government would like to see more e-cars lined up to recharge.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Poor sales of electric vehicles mean that Germany is unlikely to achieve its goal of 1 million e-cars on the road by 2020.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Ms. Merkel is planning to meet the heads of Audi, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen on February 2 to review the government’s plans.
    • Germany’s politicians disagree over how to encourage people to buy pricy electric and hybrid vehicles.
    • Buyer incentives and a proposal to increase the number of e-vehicles in government fleets are among the suggested incentives.
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    Audio

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Angela Merkel is planning to meet the heads of Germany’s leading car companies to discuss the government’s faltering e-mobility initiative, Handelsblatt has learned.

The chancellor will sit down with executives from Audi, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen on February 2 to review her government’s increasingly ambitious plan to put 1 million electric cars on Germany’s roads by 2020, sources familiar with the matter told Handelsblatt.

The move follows the cancellation on Monday of a meeting to discuss e-mobility between state secretaries and the heads of the governing coalition.

Politicians and carmakers disagree over how to encourage people to buy the pricy electric and hybrid vehicles. Automakers and members of the center-left Social Democrat Party, the junior coalition partner, are calling for financial incentives for buyers. But the chancellor’s conservative Christian Democratic Union is against the idea.

 

Of the 362 vehicles currently used by the chancellery, ministries and press office, only 43 use a purely electric or hybrid engine.

Sigmar Gabriel, the vice chancellor and economics minister, has called for buyer incentives and has received backing from some members of his SPD party, although the federal coalition agreement excludes such measures. Budget experts from the SPD, as well as the CDU and its sister party, the center-right Bavarian Christian Social Party, have rejected the incentives.

Germany’s financial minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, and the government’s transportation minister, Alexander Dobrindt, both from the CDU, also oppose a so-called buyer’s premium. Mr. Dobrindt supports an accelerated depreciation and more charging stations, something advocated by the Social Democrats.

The budget specialists in the coalition, however, insist that money come from the existing transportation budget. In contrast, Mr. Gabriel has called for up to €2.5 billion, or $2.7 billion,l in additional funding until 2020.

“That would offer clear support to the German car industry,” Mr. Gabriel said.

Ms. Merkel had intended to present a program of assistance last summer, but the idea of a special depreciation was opposed by the coalition. Sources say she wants to present further information on February 5, a few days after the meeting with the chief executives of Audi, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, industry sources told Handelsblatt.

One idea is a public procurement plan to increase the proportion of e-vehicles in government fleets to 30 percent by 2030. Currently, only about 14 percent of vehicles in government fleets are electric or hybrid and the fleets of federal agencies and institutes contain even fewer e-cars, according to figures revealed by the government in response to a parliamentary question.

Mr. Gabriel wants “at least 30 percent of the new passenger cars purchased for the fleet of the federal government to be electric cars” by 2019, and at least 20 percent in 2017. This would cost around €55 million up to 2020.

Of the 362 vehicles currently used by the chancellery, ministries and press office, only 43 use a purely electric or hybrid engine. This is almost 14 percent, significantly more than the 0.7 percent share of electric cars in the general population.

The Ministry of Transportation uses the most e-cars in the government with 11, followed by the Labor Ministry with five, and the Education, Health and Environment Ministries with four each. The Ministries of Defense, Justice and Family Ministries had no electric cars as of October.

But not everyone supports the proposals to have more e-vehicles in the government fleet.

“The impact of the purchase of new electric cars is negated by what is still too high a share of climate-damaging luxury limousines,” said Gesine Lötzsch, a member of the Left Party and head of the budget committee. She pointed out that regulations by the European Union specify that starting in 2021, new cars must emit less than 95 grams per kilometer of CO2.

“With its own fleet, the government is far away from this goal,” she said.

This is apparent at government agencies and institutions. They have few if any electric cars – not even the Federal Environmental Agency. But because of the Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal, agency director Maria Krauzberger has now announced an intention to switch from diesel to a hybrid vehicle – made by VW.

 

Daniel Delhaes reports on politics, transport and airlines from Handelsblatt’s Berlin office. To contact the author: delhaes@handelsblatt.com

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