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Kick-start for German e-cars

January 31, 2016

Electric cars are to be used by parliamentarians in Berlin next year in a move billed as part of Germany's switch to climate-friendly mobility. German car makers want state incentives to boost sluggish sales in "e-cars."

Internationale Konferenz zur Elektromobilität in Berlin
Image: Reuters

A letter from Norbert Lammert, the speaker of Germany's Bundestag parliament, to parliamentarians emerged Saturday, saying talks were under way to add electric cars to the chamber's fleet of vehicles.

Following up on a report by the tabloid newspaper "Bild," the German news agency DPA said 100 middle-class vehicles would be phased in from mid-2017, when the Bundestag's contract with an existing shuttle provider ran out.

Lammert, who chairs parliament, said the Bundestag's Council of Elders had recommended that the next shuttle contract go to BwFuhrparkService.

The commercial offshoot of Germany's armed forces, with a minority 25 percent stake held by German Rail, provides passenger cars, military trucks and special vehicles such as airport tractors to move airplanes.

"Bild" quoted a Bundestag spokeswoman as saying the aim was to lower carbon exhaust emissions within the Bundestag fleet to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020 - reflecting goals discussed at December's UN climate conference in Paris.

In 2013, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government reaffirmed its goal of putting one million e-cars on Germany's roads by 2020.

VDA demands "impulse"

On Friday, Germany's VDA automobile federation demanded a massive federal government "impulse" for electric mobility, declaring that financial state incentives were needed to persuade consumers to switch to buying e-vehicles en masse.

VDA president Matthias Wissmann, a former German transport minister, said it was "high time" that Germany offered car buyers incentives that could range from a tax benefit to a direct subsidized premium on purchase.

The news magazine Der Spiegel reported Friday that the sum of 5,000 euros ($5400) per new vehicles suggested by Social Democrat vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was being discussed within industry and government circles.

Direct premium rejected

A direct premium for buyers has already been rejected by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Follow conservative and Bundestag budget committee spokesman Eckhardt Rehberg said: "The automobile industry has already earned billions in recent years and is economically strong enough so that it doesn't have to be supported by the taxpaper."

Demand for electric vehicles is still meager in Germany. Of the 3.2 million new passenger cars registered last year, only 12,363 were electric cars.

Disincentives range from relatively high prices for e-vehicles, their relative low kilometer range compared to a fully-tanked fossil-fuel vehicle and insufficient locations for charging car batteries.

"The current 5,600 public charging locations are far too few," said the VDA's Wissmann compared to the figure of 16,000 being discussed by the government.

Top level talks on the issue are scheduled for next Tuesday between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of three automakers, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, according to Der Spiegel.

ipj/bw (dpa, epd)