The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany

France and the UK are planning to ban all combustion engine sales from 2040. The Clean Energy Wire provides key quotes from German politicians, their parties' national election programmes, and industry players on the future of the combustion engine. [Update adds Seehofer, Özdemir]

The federal environment ministry’s original draft for the government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 had a 2030 deadline to phase out most combustion engines in new cars. But the deadline was dropped in the face of heavy resistance from the economy ministry and the chancellery. Now, the diesel scandal has thrust the question of future mobility into the limelight and onto the campaign agenda for the federal elections in September.

Election campaign programmes:

Christian Democratic Union (CDU):

“We reject general driving bans for specific types of vehicles.”

“Because of their low CO2 emissions, diesel engines remain an important option until the final break-through of electro mobility.”

“We support the change of engine types in transportation and pursue a technology-open overall strategy to support the market entry of alternative fuels and drives, such as e-mobility and fuel cells.”

See the full programme here


Social Democratic Party (SPD)

“We want to boost e-mobility for climate and industrial policy reasons. We are pushing for ambitious emissions targets at an EU level.”

“We want Germany to produce the most modern e-vehicles.”            

See the full programme here.


Green Party

“The next government must set a clear target for climate and industrial policy reasons: From 2030 on, only emissions-free cars will be registered. The era of the fossil-fuel combustion engine will then be over.”

“Those who stick to diesel and petrol engines prevent the car industry from being fit for the 21st century.”

See the full programme here.


Left Party

“We support the proposal by the Bundesrat (chamber of the federal states) to allow the new registration of only zero-CO2-emissions cars by 2030.”

“We want truly barrier-free mobility. Nobody should be dependent on a (personal) car; everybody should have access. Our focus therefore is on public transport.”

See the full programme here.


Free Democratic Party (FDP)

“We reject planned-economy style implementation by the federal government... we do not consider state-directed investments such as the forced introduction of e-cars through banning combustion engines an appropriate strategy for climate protection.”

“Sustainable and subsidy-free business models can only be enforced through technology-neutral competition under market-based conditions.”

See the full programme here.


Alternative for Germany (AfD)

“The AfD rejects any ideological transport policy that favours or discriminates against any specific type of transportation.”

“E-mobility has to develop like any other technology - on a market-economy base.”

See the full programme here.


Recent quotes from German politicians:

Angela Merkel (CDU), German Chancellor:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced support for the idea of banning internal combustion engine cars sometime in the future, as planned by other European countries. “I cannot name a specific date now, but the approach is right, because if we invest more in charging infrastructure and technology for e-cars fast, a general transition will structurally be possible." (In an interview with the German weekly magazine SUPERillu, August 2017)

“Diesel cars are as good for climate protection today as they were yesterday and the day before yesterday.” (Election campaign rally in Saarland, March 2017.)

“The diesel engine has always been a good option” to lower CO₂ emissions. (At a hearing before an inquiry committee of the federal parliament, March 2017)


Federal government spokesperson:

“A ban of diesel or petrol cars is currently not on the agenda of the federal government. It’s about making possible a low-emission mobility,” a federal government spokesperson told journalists at a press conference on 26 July. The government supported the development of alternative propulsion systems like e-mobility. Chancellor Angela Merkel had often “warned of demonising the diesel”, as “the diesel engine emits less CO₂ and is thus more climate-friendly”. 


Horst Seehofer (CSU), party head and state premier of Bavaria:

For the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), a combustion engine ban is a no-go in coalition talks after the September elections, CSU head Horst Seehofer said in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe. It would “strike at the roots of our prosperity,” said Seehofer. Political goals should not be achieved with bans. "The British can do that, they've made several such mistakes before. The de-industrialisation of the market economy is a British invention," said Seehofer. A quota for e-cars was “similar nonsense,” said Seehofer. (Newspaper interview, August 2017)


Cem Özdemir (Green Party), party head and election Spitzenkandidat:

In an interview with Funke Mediengruppe, Green ‘Spitzenkandidat’ Cem Özdemir said: “The Greens will not enter a coalition that doesn’t initiate the end of the fossil combustion engine era and sets the stage for emission-free transport.” (Newspaper interview, August 2017)


Alexander Dobrindt (CSU), federal minister for transport:

“Sweeping driving bans are not a sound political solution […] bans lead to a creeping expropriation of diesel customers […] Anyone who thinks our partnership with the industry amounts to cronyism hasn’t understood the social market economy […] We have to make sure we still build the most attractive cars in the world in 10 years’ time.” (At a business event in Munich, 25 July 2017)


Martin Schulz (SPD), chancellor candidate for the Social Democrats:

“The diesel engine will still be needed for some time to come.” Schulz also said diesel bans in inner cities made no sense. (On the sidelines of a visit to an Audi factory on 10 July)


Brigitte Zypries (SPD), economy and energy minister:

“To set a date like 2040 right now neither makes sense nor does it help reach the objectives. […] While hardly any cars are being built in England, Germany is one of the largest car manufacturing countries in the world, with more than a million jobs that depend on it.” (to Funke Mediengruppe, 30 July 2017)

“[The diesel summit on 2 August] is aimed at preventing driving bans, by first getting commitments to a reduction of nitrogen oxides and agreement on a masterplan.”

“One thing is the diesel crisis, which the car industry has created itself and for which it needs an ambitious solution. The other topic is the long-term switch from combustion engines to alternative drives. These are two different things. The change to alternative technologies will come. Climate protection requires that.” (in an interview with business daily Handelsblatt published 20 July)


Christian Lindner (FDP), party head:

“Driving bans amount to expropriation.”

“If the Greens want to ban the combustion engine by 2030 and we all have batteries, which are loaded with 40 percent coal-generated power, and for which rare earths are mined under inhumane conditions abroad, then nothing is won.” (Newspaper interviews, July 2017)


Anton Hofreiter (Green Party), co-chair of the Green Party

“The call for an end of the combustion engine by 2030 is ambitious, but it is technically feasible, it’s worth it and time is running out.” (In an op-ed piece on the party’s plan to end combustion engines by 2030 24 June)

“Technological development is happening so quickly that the German industry either manages to come up with competitive zero-emission vehicles or it will get into deep trouble due to dwindling demand.” (In an interview with the Clean Energy Wire in November 2016)


Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party), state premier of Baden-Württemberg:

“I’ve always said that clean diesel exists. And I see no reason to change my mind.” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25 July 2017)


Recent quotes from industry players:

Jörg Hofmann, chairman of Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG-Metall)

“The idea that the government sets an end date 2030 for certain types of engines is completely unrealistic, if it’s not to end in fiasco. We need a balance of environment and climate protection, employment and achievable innovation to be able to get to a durable phase-out scenario.” (in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 30 July 2017)


Matthias Müller, CEO VW

The internal combustion engine “will continue to be needed in a transition period towards e-mobility.” (at the VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, following talks with German environment minister Barbara Hendricks on 27 July)

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.


Sven Egenter

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