Maria Krautzberger believes such action is necessary if Germany is to achieve its climate agreement targets
Ambitious goals call for ambitious measures, and these are exactly what Maria Krautzberger is proposing with regard to past climate agreements. The head of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) thinks that Germany’s goals cannot be achieved unless quotas are placed upon automakers to produce a minimum amount of EVs per year.
In an interview with German paper Die Zeit, Krautzberger was “highly critical of the car industry and German government subsidies for diesel cars”, believing them to be both misleading to customers and cynical with regard to climate change.
There are currently 46 million vehicles registered in Germany, but only 25,000 of these are EVs. Krautzberger wants to see the latter figure rise to 12 million by 2030 which she admits is ambitious. She also admits that, left to their own devices, there is very little evidence to suggest that automakers would achieve such a target. However, she points to California and China -two of the largest and most important EV markets- as proof that incentives work:
“I know this is controversial, but it’s been successful in California, and they’re now introducing such quotas in China. Quotas give the makers security of planning. We’ve done the maths: if we want to hit the CO2 reduction target for traffic for 2030, we need 3-12% of the fleet to be electric by 2020, 30-32% by 2025, and 60-70% by 2030.”
To reach the latter target, even her goal of 12 million EVs by 2030 wouldn’t be enough without a significant reduction in the number of registered vehicles there are in total. Whilst she did not go on to address the disparity between her two estimates, another scheme to reduce vehicles in cities to only 150 for every 1000 inhabitants suggest that she might be counting on such a reduction.
According to Transport & Environment, Krautzberger has been highly critical of the car industry and the German government with regard to EVs. In her current role – to which she was appointed in 2014 – as well as her former one as a German senator she has taken particular issue with the fact that, until recently, customers were being convinced that swapping to diesel was somehow a green option. She sympathises with those who have fallen prey to such marketing:
“I understand the anger completely. I find it intolerable that the carmakers are not putting money aside to tackle exhaust problems in inner cities, because the makers have caused the problem.”
She also points out that whilst it is true to say diesel is marginally less harmful to the environment than petrol, the boom in SUV sales in Germany means that no net reduction in emissions is actually being made. As such, all subsidies for diesel cars are based on something of a false premise, and that in any case it was irresponsible to tell customers that diesel had a significant environmental “advantage” over petrol cars.
EV incentives off to a slow start
Her proposal to point quotas and incentives firmly in the direction of EVs is the only real solution for emission reduction according to her. This is certainly true, although ultimately the best way to reduce emissions would be to encourage a reduction in personal car usage altogether.
The Federal Environment Agency has already set a non-binding target for 2030 with a view to just this. The aim is to see major German cities reduce cars (electric or otherwise) to just 150 per 1000 inhabitants. Currently the figures for Hamburg and Berlin stand at 425 and 336 respectively. This would also free up room in these cities for some of Krautzberger’s other green initiatives such as electric buses and bicycles. The latter of these has had notable success in French cities in the form of incredibly popular bike sharing schemes.
Whilst sceptical auto industry moguls have made scathing comments against EVs, such as Ford’s Mark Fields claiming that no-one wants to buy them, Krautzberger falls into the “if you build it, they will come” category that sees price and infrastructure as the main obstacle between customers and vehicles.
In this vein, Germany has already established other EV incentives, for example by giving discounts of up to €4000 on all EV sales and up to €3000 on plugin hybrid sales. Although the incentive -which launched in July 2016- intended to see 300,000 EVs on the road by June 2019, by January of this year only 9,000 had been sold under the scheme. Whether the quotas proposed by Krautzberger might replace or supplement these incentives was not revealed, but at the current rate of progress it seems that both would likely be necessary.
Nonetheless, EV sales are slowly rising year by year, and if momentum can be increased, Krautzberger’s hopes for 2030 may have some mileage.