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11 Jan 2021, 13:56
Sören Amelang

Technology-neutral approach in car industry 'excuse for doing nothing' – Daimler union rep

Kontext

The German car industry association's call for a technology-neutral approach in the shift to low-emission vehicles is an excuse for inaction, according to a union representative on Daimler's advisory board. "I found that for many companies it was an excuse for doing nothing," Roman Zitzelsberger told the German regional weekly Kontext. "Many have said that because we are technology-neutral, we can continue as before." Zitzelsberger said recent developments suggested that "the classic car" will go battery-electric, adding that plug-in hybrids will also play an important role over the coming ten years, partly because of insufficient charging infrastructure and battery cell supplies.

In a hard-fought compromise, German car industry association VDA committed to becoming climate-neutral by 2050 in October, but rejected a sole focus on electric mobility while calling for a technology-neutral approach. The lobby group said that modern combustion engines and synthetic fuels "will play a major role" in achieving the climate targets. In contrast, the VDA's largest member Volkswagen and many green mobility proponents argue that a clear focus on the rollout of electric mobility is required to speed up emission cuts in the sector. While the country's major carmakers now focus heavily on electric mobility, its large supplier industry – which includes international heavyweights such as Bosch, Continental and ZF Friedrichshafen – insists on pursuing alternative technologies, especially hydrogen fuel cells and synthetic fuels made on the basis of renewable hydrogen.

Zitzelsberger warned that Germany faced "a few small Detroits" in regions with a high concentration of embattled supplier companies. But industry productivity gains will cost more jobs than the shift to electric cars by 2030, he said. Currently, more jobs are also lost because production is being relocated to Eastern Europe, according to Zitzelsberger. "This is due both to the migration of existing technology and to the fact that new technologies are not located here in the first place." Zitzelsberger said he did not believe a ban on the sale of combustion engines by 2030 would accelerate the shift to greener mobility, arguing the technology will still be needed for specific applications and in less developed countries. Germany's official target to cut transport emissions by 40 percent by 2030 has created so much pressure on the industry that "an additional debate about 'When do we switch off the combustion engine?' would not change the already gigantic upheaval," he said.

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