28 Jul 2017, 00:00
Sven Egenter Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German carmakers “at crossroads“ - environment minister


Driving restrictions for cars that aim to cut down on air pollution in certain areas are permissible, a German court has ruled, according to a Reuters report. "Safeguarding health is more important than the right to property and the general liberty of the car owners affected by the ban," Wolfgang Kern, the presiding judge at the Stuttgart administrative court, said, according to Reuters. This could pave the way for the southwestern city of Stuttgart, the cradle of Germany's car industry, to ban diesel cars from its streets.

Find the Reuters article here.

Clean Energy Wire

German environment minister Barbara Hendricks said that today’s court ruling on the legality of driving restrictions to cut down air pollution “confirms my view that carmakers have to avoid driving bans themselves.” Carmakers needed to shift towards other engines and “ultimately, the combustion engine won’t have future – but this is a long process,” Hendricks told journalists on her summer press tour through Germany. Next week’s diesel summit would produce only the “first steps” of a solution by agreeing on software update,” said Hendricks. “But mere software updates won’t suffice to avoid driving bans. We need ‘real’ retrofitting.” Finding a solution for the diesel emissions issue would be a big challenge for the coalition talks after September’s general elections, no matter which party would be involved, said Hendricks. The minister said that “occasionally there has been too much closeness between the car industry and politicians.”
“I think the car industry has understood by now that it is at a crossroads.”

For background, read the CLEW interview with ICCT's Peter Mock “Diesel summit comes two years too late” and the factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany.

Federal transport ministry (BMVi)

Federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt announced the recall of certain models of Porsche’s SUV Cayenne equipped with 3-litre diesel engines. It also ordered a registration moratorium for new vehicles, after tests by the ministry (BMVi) and the Federal Office for Motor Traffic (KBA) found potentially illegal emissions controlling software in the Volkswagen subsidiary's vehicles. 7,500 cars registered in Germany and 22,000 registered in Europe were affected, said the minister. “Manufacturers will, of course, bear 100 percent of the costs,” Dobrindt told reporters at a press conference in Berlin. Software updates should suffice to enable the cars to comply with emissions limits, he said. Certain models of Volkswagen’s Tuareg could also be affected and would now be tested, said Dobrindt. 

Find the video of transport minister Dobrindt’s announcement in German here.

Bloomberg and Reuters also reported on this topic, in English.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany and the CLEW article Reactions to allegations over German carmaker cartel.

Deutsche Welle

The electric car might not be the clean alternative to combustion engines many believe it to be, because of environmental damage from batteries and the extraction of raw materials such as cobalt or lithium, Henrik Böhme argues in an opinion piece on Deutsche Welle. Therefore, Germany might have to tackle clean transport in a different way. “What about more streetcars and e-buses in city centers?” he says. “Why not electrify our highways to hook up trucks and coaches to overhead lines. It wouldn't exactly be a new invention.”

Find the opinion piece on Deutsche Welle here.

Find background on Germany’s lack of progress in getting a climate-friendly transport system in this Clean Energy Wire dossier.

Handelsblatt Online

The Green Party might have been the first to call for a phase-out of the combustion engine, yet they could still end up without political gains, Barbara Gillmann writes in a commentary on business website Handelsblatt Online. Setting an end date for the combustion engine has almost become an international trend, and tides in Germany, where others have accused the Greens of damaging the country’s industry, could turn quickly in the face of the diesel scandal. “[Chancellor Angela] Merkel has shown often enough that she can change course quickly and ruthlessly if she thinks the time is ripe,” Gillmann argues. “It’s only likely that she will turn around with the combustion engine issue as well – the sector, weakened by diesel scandal and cartel allegations, would make it even easy for her at the moment.”

Read the commentary in German here.


Europe’s carmakers can manage the shift to offer clean, competitive and interconnected transport solutions to stay ahead in the global race, EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic writes in an op-ed for business weekly Wirtschaftswoche. However, the ongoing emissions scandal, the half-hearted reactions to it and the truck cartel have shown that not all have grasped how serious the situation is. The Commission will look closely into the allegations of a further cartel, Sefcovic writes. The Commission also plans to make proposals for the first ever CO2 standards for buses and trucks.

Dow Jones Newswires

Germany imported less hard coal last year and imports are set to drop again in 2017, the German Coal Importers Association said, according to a report by Dow Jones Newswires. Imports fell by 4 percent to 55.2 million tons in 2016, and will dip again this year after power generation from coal dropped nearly 3 percent in the first four months. The association rejected calls for a minimum carbon price and said that hard coal was an “ideal” back-up for fluctuating renewable energy sources.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

District cooling offers property owners a more climate-friendly and potentially cheaper way to cool their buildings on hot summer days, writes Ralph Diermann in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Water running through buildings’ walls is centrally cooled down to about 6° Celsius and transported through pipes to several buildings nearby. Whether this type of cooling is economical depends on the individual case, with the distance to the central cooling unit an important factor. In Berlin, the Philharmonic, as well as the Mall of Berlin and the Sony Center use this technology, writes Diermann.

Read the article in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and Efficiency.

Renewable energy sources covered 35 percent of power demand in Germany in the first half of 2017, utilities association BDEW said on Friday. In the first half of 2016, the renewables share was 33 percent. Onshore wind power installations made the largest contribution. They produced nearly 14 percent more than a year ago. Offshore wind saw the sharpest increase with a year-on-year rise of 47.5 percent. Electricity production from PV rose by 13.5 percent, biomass-fueled installations produced 2.2 percent more power.

Find the BDEW press statement in German here.

Get more data on German power production and energy consumption on the Clean Energy Wire factsheet.

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.
« previous news next news »


Researching a story? Drop CLEW a line or give us a call for background material and contacts.

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee