Greenpeace: e-car is just ′mobility for the rich′ | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 14.04.2012
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Greenpeace: e-car is just 'mobility for the rich'

The electric car is supposed to be a useful way of tackling climate change by reducing CO2 emissions. But even environmental activists are now criticizing the e-cars currently available.

Environmental organization Greenpeace has lambasted the development of the electric car. Greenpeace Germany's transportation expert Wolfgang Lohbeck said the electric cars currently available are neither more economical, nor better for the environment than conventional cars.

He was speaking at a convention of German magazine "Auto Motor und Sport" in Stuttgart this week.

In addition, most people cannot afford the high-priced electric vehicles, Lohbeck told an audience of over 300 automobile experts. "I don't like a type of mobility that excludes large groups of people - it's mobility for the rich," he said. There's also been no breakthrough in high battery prices, he added.

Poor environmental record

A view inside a test e-car's engine

E-cars still need work

But a significant factor is that electric cars are not any more environmentally friendly than regular cars. Given current mixes of power in electric cars, in which renewable energies play only a small part, electric cars have a poor environmental record and ultimately generate more CO2 emissions than gasoline-driven cars, Lohbeck pointed out.

The environmentalist said that's why Greenpeace believes internal combustion engines will continue to have the clear edge in the next 10 to 15 years, making it even more essential to optimize their efficiency. "The future will be defined by downsizing and supercharging [boosting power by improving motor efficiency]," he said. "That has shown itself to be the ideal method. Reducing oil consumption means first and foremost making internal combustion motors more economical."

Some politicians are also skeptical

Winfried Kretschmann, Green Party premier of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, shares Lohbeck's view. "The internal combustion engine will be an important drive system for a long time to come," Kretschmann said at the convention in Stuttgart.

While Kretschmann does believe the electric car will offer the mobility of the future, he warns people not to rely on only one type of technology. "We have to remain open to different forms of technology," he said. His state government "has a lot of respect for companies which must now make difficult decisions [regarding technology]," he said. It's unclear which one will take the lead, he added.

A race car charging at a station

Some are skeptical; others say the race is on for e-car makers

Considered Germany's carmaker state, Kretschmann said Baden-Württemberg has a responsibility to develop trend-setting technology. "We want to turn this region into a beacon for the mobility of the future," he said.

Switching gears

Volkswagen, Europe's largest automobile-maker, has said it wants to become the most environmentally-friendly car-making company in the world by the year 2018. To this end, Ulrich Hackenberg, head of VW's product development, announced that there would be investments in the two-digit billion range in the coming years.

Part of that package is the aim to make all of its plants around the world 25 percent more environmentally-friendly by 2018. "In concrete terms, that means reducing power and water consumption, waste and emissions by 25 percent," he said.

He said that not only cars themselves, but also their production must become easier on the environment. One-fourth of a car's total emissions are created in its production, he said. Furthermore, VW aims to continue improving the efficiency of its internal combustion motors, he said. "With the right technologies, I see a further savings potential of 20 percent."

Author: Klaus Ulrich / als
Editor: Ben Knight

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