News
03 Nov 2020, 13:44
Edgar Meza

Germany’s narrow focus on battery cars endangers CO2 targets - engineers' association

Clean Energy Wire

The Association of German Engineers (VDI) has warned against what it sees as the narrow focus of the German government and parts of the country’s industry  on electric vehicles as a major solution in the reduction of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions. In a new study that examines the environmental impact of cars with different drive systems, the association found that a one-sided commitment to the battery-powered car was “counterproductive for the environment”. In summarising the result of the study, VDI President Volker Kefer said: "A complementary interaction of the technologies is our only chance to achieve the CO2 targets for 2030." The VDI stressed that all drive systems still had great potential to contribute significantly to CO2 reduction in mobility, whether battery, fuel cell or combustion engine. "As the VDI, we expressly support the promotion of alternative technologies," Kefer said. "However, it is important for us not to rely solely on battery-powered vehicles, but also to further strengthen the fuel cell and modern combustion engines with more environmentally friendly fuels such as gas or synthetic fuels.” The association also pointed out that a significant proportion of emitted CO2 emissions was due to the energy supply of the vehicles during production and operation. "If the energy sources are not freed from their CO2 burden, none of the technologies can help," said Ralf Marquard, chair of the VDI Society for Vehicle and Transport Technology’s Powertrain and Energy Management advisory board and one of the co-initiators of the study. "Only if the energy sources are obtained on a renewable basis can all the technologies help to improve the environmental balance."

Taking the complete value chain into account, modern vehicles with combustion engines today are often less polluting than electric vehicles, the VDI said, adding that battery-powered electric drives suffered from the current high energy and material consumption in production. "Successful and energy-saving battery recycling is the key to success here, and it is imperative that we promote this, as it is not currently practiced on an industrial scale," Marquard stressed. The study also recommends the rapid relocation of battery cell production from China to Europe due to the positive effect that shorter transport routes would have on CO2 emissions. Despite government support for electric vehicles, Germany’s car industry has largely rejected a sole focus on e-cars while recently committing to climate-neutral mobility by 2050 for the first time.

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