15 Feb 2018, 00:00
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

No firm plan for free public transport/ Dieselgate hits used car sales

Clean Energy Wire

The German government has no concrete plans to make public transport free of charge. The government proposal of free public transport, contained in a letter to the EU aiming at avoiding financial penalties for exceeding pollutions limits, is just one suggestion for individual municipalities to improve air quality temporarily, environment spokesperson Gabriel Haufe told journalists at a weekly government press conference. The cities put forward in the letter should test measures for cleaner air, Haufe said. “For example, that could mean a significant roll-out of electric mobility offerings, or making public transport temporarily free […] the municipalities can decide for themselves what to do.” Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said it would be the incoming government's responsibility to find an agreement on how to finance the measures.

The German government told the EU it is considering making public transport free of charge in polluted cities. Many initial press reports suggested the government considered permanently free public transport, with blanket coverage.

Find background in the updated CLEW article German cities might test free public transport to cut pollution.

Sustainable transport association VCD

Backtracking on the proposal to make public transport free of charge proves the government is “totally clueless and irresponsible”, according to German transport and environmental association Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), which promotes sustainable mobility. “Ambitious solutions to city pollution have been overdue for years, but the grand coalition fails on all accounts,” VCD public transport expert Philipp Kosok said in a press release. The government has let car companies get away with emissions cheating and continues to block diesel bans in city centres, and “now the ministers in charge even shy away from seriously improving public transport – what a farce.”

Find the press release in German here.

Find background in the updated CLEW article German cities might test free public transport to cut pollution.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Offering free public transport in inner cities to improve air quality is a proposal by a “disoriented federal government” that lacks a concept, agreement with cities and federal states and a proposal to finance the endeavour, Manfred Schäfers writes in an opinion piece for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Apparently, the federal government does not care anymore where the journey leads. All that matters is that it looks like action,” Schäfers says.

Find the opinion piece (behind paywall) in German in the FAZ e-paper here.

Read the CLEW articleGerman cities might test free public transport to cut pollution for background.

Welt Online

The proposal to make public transport free of charge in polluted cities is a “sign for political organ failure” and shows that Chancellor Angela Merkel does not have a plan, writes Nikolaus Doll in an opinion piece for Welt Online. “You don’t have to be a transport expert to guess the consequences,” Doll writes: millions of additional commuters would flood into buses and trains, and more vehicles and lines would be needed. “Of course, all this is possible, but it takes years, costs billions and is not aligned along free market lines.” The government has had plenty of time to think of a plan, “but Berlin just thought: it’ll all turn out ok”.

Read the opinion piece in German here.  

Read the CLEW article German cities might test free public transport to cut pollution for background.

German Association for Motor Trade and Repair (ZDK)

As a result of the diesel crisis, used car sales were down 1.9 percent in 2017, compared to the previous year, according to the German Association for Motor Trade and Repair (ZDK). “Auto dealers are deeply unsettled," ZDK president Jürgen Karpinski said in a press release. "Threatening driving bans in metropolitan areas makes used diesel cars almost unsalable.” Used diesel passenger cars stood on dealers’ plots an average of 100 days; petrol cars just 80 days. Each day costs the dealer 28 euros per car, Karpinski said. In addition, there was a loss in value of several thousand euros per vehicle. In some cases, this situation  “threatens dealers' existence” ZDK says, “So it’s all the more important to make faster progress on a political level regarding hardware retrofitting of older diesel cars.” In 2017, 68 percent of cars sold in Germany were used. ZDK did not provide detailed data on used-car sales by fuel type.

Find the press release and additional material in German here.

Also read the CLEW article German cities might test free public transport to cut pollution and find background on the diesel technology’s impact on clean air and climate in the CLEW article Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy.

Prognos AG

Swiss consultancy Prognos has published a detailed and highly sceptical assessment of the coalition agreement between the conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD), including analyses of the effects on climate, energy, transport and regional policy. Prognos says climate and energy policy plans “appear fragmented and incoherent” with aspects of energy transition policy scattered across various sections of the coalition agreement. The consultancy concedes that “many important topics have been touched” on in the paper, but central issues like Germany’s phase-out of coal-fired power production were buried in the section on climate and fall short of giving crucial details. The same goes for construction and the transport sector, Prognos says. Another shortcoming is the failure to highlight “that the implementation of climate and efficiency measures has to be accelerated” if Germany is to honour its climate action pledges, the consultancy argues. The coalition treaty also failed to address sensitive issues concerning fundamental economic changes, such as the structural change awaiting coal mining regions or the end of fossil fuels in transport. To avoid addressing these “ruptures” due to “fears over difficult negotiations is not helpful.” The treaty is often “marked by resounding silence” on the decarbonisation of industrial processes and is “strangely vague and short” on energy efficiency. Prognos energy policy expert Almut Kirchner says “substantial changes and effective tools will be necessary in almost all areas of the energy system if the climate targets are to be met. There are no simple solutions in sight and they should not be anticipated.”

Find the analysis on climate and energy policy in German here and further analyses on transport and regional policy (in coal regions) in German here.

Find a CLEW factsheet on the coalition agreement here.

Der Tagesspiegel

Germany’s Energiewende successes lie in the past and it’s time to put the transition on a new footing, Jakob Schlandt writes in a leading article in Der Tagesspiegel. Greenhouse gas emissions have stagnated for years, and “little or nothing has happened in the transport and building sectors”. The Netherlands shows how it’s done by heavily taxing large cars, Denmark by prohibiting the installation of new oil and gas heaters. “Of course, that costs and hurts. But the Energiewende will not happen if one rigidly clings to old habits,” Schlandt writes. The next federal government must put the transition back on track. “From a success story to a major project in distress – and back,” is all we can hope for, Schlandt writes.

For background, read CLEW’s Germany's Energiewende: The Easy Guide and the dossier The next German government and the energy transition.

Die Welt

Battery manufacturers say so-called gigafactories for battery production won't be economically viable in Europe for years, Daniel Wetzel writes for Die Welt. The car industry must first agree on a standard, Christian Riedel, spokesperson of Johnson Controls, said at German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) event in Berlin. “If the Association of the Automotive Industry [VDA] does not agree on cell technology, there will be no investment in major factories on greenfield land.” Rainer Hald, chief technical officer at Varta, said: “There won’t be a business case, as long as no customer from the auto industry is willing to commit [to a technology].”

Read the article in German here.

Read the CLEW News Digest piece Germany misses out on rise of battery cell production in Europe, and the dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for more information.

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.

Get support

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee