Merkel Weighs Pollution Goal That Would Spur More Electric Cars

  • Government considers law to help meet Paris climate targets
  • Fumes from transporation account for 20% of German emissions

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is working on targets to cut pollution on Germany’s roads that may effectively force carmakers to switch most of their sales to electric vehicles by the end of the next decade.

Merkel’s chancellery is reviewing a draft of her coalition’s Climate Protection Plan 2050, which would require fossil-fuel emissions cuts of 45 percent for cars and 54 percent for trucks by 2030, according to a draft of the legislation. The targets would enact the government’s pledge to slash carbon dioxide pollution by 95 percent by 2050, a goal it set out ahead of the Paris climate talks in December.

If approved, the rules would set a deadline for the car industry to shift a large portion of production to electric and hybrid vehicles. Transport accounts for about a fifth of all greenhouse-gas pollution in Germany and costs the nation 50 billion euros ($55.5 billion) a year in oil imports, according to the draft law. 

“It would be impossible to halve road emissions by 2030 without legislation that directly or indirectly ushers in a phase-out of diesel and gasoline vehicle production, ” said Oliver Krischer, vice chairman of the opposition Green Party, said in an interview Wednesday. “What we need is a boost of e-cars to reach the climate goal that Germany and other countries committed to at the world climate conference in Paris last year.”

EV Investments

While Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Daimler AG already are stepping up investment in electric and hybrid car technology, such vehicles make up a tiny fraction of cars on German roads.

About 130,000 hybrids and 25,000 all-electric cars were registered in the nation as of January compared with 30 million gasoline cars and 14.5 million diesels, according to the KBA vehicle registration authority.

“The federal government wants the vast majority of new registrations to have an electric transmission or transmissions powered by synthetic fuels from” renewable sources, the draft rule says, without being more specific. The government will formulate steps to achieve the CO2 reduction “milestones” within two years, it said.

Climate Pledges

Environment Ministry spokesman Michael Schroeren declined to comment on the proposals, which have not yet been approved by the government. Germany may need a “framework” orientation for the car industry to usher in a faster switch to electric and hybrid car production, he said without giving detail about what that might entail.

Germany’s international climate protection promises will be in jeopardy unless the country radically reduces transportation pollution, Deputy Economy Minister Rainer Baake said on June 13. Since cars typically have a 20-year lifespan, registrations of new diesel and gasoline cars needs to be cut over the next 15 years, he said.

Merkel’s government pledged subsidies this year to speed e-car sales, a move that was accelerated by Volkswagen’s emission-manipulation scandal. Currently, buyers of all-electric and hybrid vehicles can claim cash incentives. The program may spark sales of about 500,000 electric cars by 2020, according to the Environment Ministry.

Purely electric vehicles as a portion of all cars on German roads may reach about 8 percent in 2025 from 0.6 percent this year, according to a forecast of the Center of Automotive Management institute. The government has so far stuck with a plan to put a million hybrid and battery plug-ins on the road by 2020 and 6 million by 2030

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