09 Mar 2016 | Paul Hockenos

Energiewende in transportation: Vague goals, modest strides

(UPDATE with new data on e-car registrations in paragraph 3) - The European Union wants to reduce CO2 emissions in the transportation sector of its 28 member states by 60 percent by 2050. Germany has no stated goal for its own transportation sector, despite the efforts of environmental groups to make it commit to one.

According to the 2010 Energy Concept, Germany will reduce its total CO2 emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, and 80-95 percent by 2050. Decarbonising the transportation sector should – in an unspecified volume – contribute to this. If Germany does not take a considerably more determined approach to restructuring its CO2-intensive transportation sector, many experts say it will not hit this target.

Germany wants to have a million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020 and six million by 2030. Sales of EV cars in Germany were up in 2015, with new EV registrations at 12,363, plus 11,101 plug-in hybrids.  At the beginning of 2016, the total number of pure EVs on German roads was 25,502 and the total number of hybrids (with or without plug) was 130,365. Those numbers do not bode well for the 2020 and 2030 goals.

It aims to be Europe’s “lead market and provider for electric mobility by 2020.” Few experts take these goals seriously in light of the paltry number currently registered. As for market leadership, 2014 was the first year that a German plug-in – namely BMW’s i3 – posted noteworthy sales (15,000 worldwide) , still far behind the Nissan Leaf (57,000), Tesla Model S (28,000), and the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In (26,000), among others. 2015 looks to have been a banner year for German-made EVs – at home and abroad – but the numbers remain quite small.

The Energy Concept explicitly states that “at the European level, the German government will push for ambitious rules on the maximum permissible CO2 emissions for new vehicles.” Contrary to this demand, Germany has battled to lower EU standards for CO2 and other GHG emissions.

The National Platform for Electromobility (NPE) outlines two stages of government support for e-mobility: first, market preparation (2010-2014) that concentrated on R&D and subsidising e-vehicle sales. The NPE’s second phase (2015-2017) includes the development of a country-wide charging infrastructure – at least 400 more stations by 2018 – and test routes such as the 480-kilometer A9 highway from Munich to Leipzig, which has eight fast-charging stations. Not only has the NPE failed to generate substantial e-car sales in Germany, but journalists revealed that along the A9, the fast-charging stations’ plugs were not the “multi-use standard” but rather the one that German – as well as some other types of – EVs use. Japanese, Korean and some French EVs cannot charge on the A9 as opposed to nearly everywhere else in Europe.

Five ministries at the federal level share responsibility for policymaking and implementation: The ministry for industry and energy (renewable energy production, smart grids, coordination), the transportation ministry (tolls and highways, shipping and aviation, infrastructure, public transportation), the ministry for research (R&D), the agriculture ministry (biomass), and the environment ministry (biofuels, efficiency, greenhouse gas levels, air and noise pollution).

The 2009 National Electromobility Development Plan had an original four-year budget of 500 million euros, which was bumped up by one billion euros in 2010, in order to speed up research on and development on battery-operated electric vehicles, energy storage devices, and infrastructure and market preparation in Germany.

In its 2014 Action Plan Climate Protection 2020, the ministry of environment (BMUB) urges the use of emissions standards, fuel taxation, motor vehicle tax, and highway tolls to decarbonise the transportation sector. The BMUB’s plan is short on hard numbers but insists on “expanding and strengthening public transport, rail freight transport, and cycle and pedestrian transport.” In transportation, it recommends that Germany cut final energy consumption 10 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2050 (2005 levels). This is the most ambitious, detailed strategy paper to come from the current German administration. Significantly, however, it hails from the BMU, which is not in charge of many of the fields the action plan addresses and sets benchmarks for. Highway tolls, emissions levels, and rail and waterways, for example, are the remit of the transportation ministry, which is much less enthusiastic about such ideas.

36.9 percent of the Deutsche Bahn’s trains already run on green energy. This should rise to 100 percent by 2050, a goal that is feasible, says the Green EU MP Michael Cramer. But he says this would happen much faster if the railways were excluded from paying VAT the way airlines are.

Concerning passenger car emissions, an EU regulation requires that new cars registered in the EU emit less than an average of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre. By 2021, the fleet average of all new cars should be less than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Germany lobbied fiercely against a higher standard – and got its way. Environmental NGOs have called for much stricter emission limits – 50 grams by 2030 – to meet climate targets.

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive requires that 10 percent of all transport fuels in its member states come from renewable sources by 2020. Moreover, the Fuel Quality Directive stipulates a 6 percent reduction in the greenhouse-gas intensity of fuels used in road transport and non-road mobile machinery.

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Dossiers

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