“Germany will not be able to circumvent the provision of further funding.” This decisive pronouncement from Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel reflects the dilemma in which the German federal government currently finds itself: for budgetary reasons and due to frequently repeated refusals, direct funding in the form of a buyer’s premium has been ruled out – and yet without funding, it is unlikely that the self-defined goal of one million electric vehicles will be achieved by 2020. Merkel’s words were therefore open and vague: “people are expecting us to provide an answer this year. We will do our best.”
The 3rd National Electric Mobility Conference (NKE) which took place on 15th and 16th June 2015 at the Berlin Congress Center (bcc) was a rendezvous for the leading representatives of the German auto industry. They were all there: the chairmen of the major automakers as well as the directors of the supply companies along with many lobbyists – all of whom were hoping to make direct contact with the political decision-makers.
Outside the bcc, six of the 19 models currently available from German auto manufacturers were on display, while inside, “shop windows” and “beacons” advertised electric mobility. The most important event, however, was the back-room meeting on the afternoon of the first day which was attended by Chancellor Merkel. After a brief photo opportunity with the executives from 30 DAX companies (with Merkel joining Kagermann, NPE; Zetsche, Daimler; Winterkorn, VW; Wissmann, VDA), the leading lights of politics and business made their way into a private suite where they discussed both the current position and future of E-mobility behind closed doors.
In her subsequent speech, the Chancellor told the packed conference room in clear terms that she would be leaving the event “having learned a lot of new things” during her meeting with the business leaders. She also expressed her view that further discussions would be necessary on additional funding measures, albeit without going into any more detail. She made it clear, however, that “the 95g of CO2 over 100km can only be achieved with electric mobility”.
By the end of 2015, the number of electric models manufactured by German auto companies is set to reach 29. So far, approximately 36,000 electric vehicles have been registered in Germany.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel announced his intention to start an initiative to develop European cell production in the scope of the growth package announced by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. And Federal Minister for Research Johanna Wanka explained that in this regard, in addition to the Batterie 2020 Research Program which has received 60 million Euros in funding, she wishes to initiate the joint GIGA-LIB project, which will involve the promotion of battery cell production in Germany. In this context, Daimler has been on the receiving end of a substantial level of criticism for its decision to close its battery cell factory again. Dr. Dieter Zetsche tried to explain that with its duty to respond to its shareholders, his company was not able to act in the same way as a start-up like Tesla, which had accepted losses over the course of many years.
Gabriel also proposed starting an initiative to increase the proportion of E-vehicles in use in the German Mail Service (Deutsche Post) and in hospital outpatient services, complimenting the previously announced tax incentives. He made the following comments: “it is surely possible for the federal government, state governments and municipalities to work together here. We need a shared public procurement program, not necessarily to achieve an immediate figure of 50%, but to make a start with 10 to 20%.” He also said: “we will have to come up with a plan so that we can gradually achieve our goal – but it won’t be easy.” He also made the following comments on the topic of eRoaming: “I am pleased that the industry is set to conclude a cooperation agreement so that customers can charge their vehicles throughout Germany and settle the electricity that they have purchased from different providers.”
Making reference to the criticism of the insufficient charging infrastructure in Germany, Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt announced his intention to equip all 400 freeway rest areas in Germany with charging stations. He made the following comments: “we want to bring about a stronger degree of dynamism so that electric mobility isn’t just something special, but the general standard.” He underlined his claim by mentioning that due to the support provided by State Secretary Rainer Bomba, in his ministry, the proportion of E-autos is set to achieve 50% next year.