Originally published on Renewables International.
Translations of recent statements made by top German officials make it sound like the country is about to do the right thing. Reality is a bit messier.
Google “all new cars mandated to be electric in Germany by 2030,” and you could be excused for believing that the German car sector and/or government has decided to abandon diesel and gasoline vehicles. No such decision has been made.
The confusion starts with this article (in German), which clearly states that German Environmental Undersecretary Flasbarth believes the Paris climate agreement requires zero-emissions vehicles for new sales by 2030, meaning EVs. He’s just stating his opinion. The most interesting part is his comment that “top people in the Economics Ministry also see it that way.”
In other words, a growing number of top officials in Germany agree that the country’s current expertise, especially in diesel engines, has no future. Flasbarth joins the ranks of Energiewende Undersecretary Baake and Green parliamentarian Janecek in calling for a ban on sales of non-electric vehicles. So the idea has momentum. But it’s still just an idea, not actual policy.
We also have to keep in mind who actually runs the country. Top politicians can believe whatever they want, but they apparently have to get the automotive sector to agree before anything can be done. The recent car emissions scandal clearly revealed the political failure to rein in the influence of German car manufacturers, who were literally allowed to get away with murder. And when they hit hard times, the government bails them out – German carmakers are too big to fail. (Firms in the renewables sector are not; they simply go bankrupt.)
Which is why the news from industry is so important – not only has Deutsche Post announced plans to roll out a fleet of EVs, but even German carmakers themselves finally see the writing on the wall (and it reads “diesel is going to kill you, too”). Yesterday, VW announced plans to become a global leader in “sustainable mobility.” Towards that goal, they face stiff competition – not just from Tesla and Google, but basically from every other German carmaker.
Still, doing away with diesel and gasoline engines altogether in a mere 14 years will remain a hard sell in Germany. The car companies would probably prefer to keep internal combustion engines along with EVs. And that’s what they want, history suggests that that’s what Germany is going to get.
And by the way, I believe I can take some credit for this progress. Janecek follows me on Twitter, and he began calling for a ban on sales of non-EVs after my reports about such calls in Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, and India – again, follow this link.