31 Jul 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Utilities' fate for carmakers? / The e-car's resource risks

Süddeutsche Zeitung

An energy transition in mobility could pose the same challenges for German carmakers that the power transition has posed for big German utilities, writes Michael Bauchmüller in an opinion piece for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “If the carmakers don’t pay attention, e-mobility will be for them what sun and wind turned out to be for RWE and E.ON: a Waterloo,” writes Bauchmüller. The utilities repeatedly pointed to nuclear power as a bridging technology for the shift to renewables, and were unprepared when the changing attitude of the population pushed the government to pull the plug on nuclear after Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Bauchmüller points out. This time, it's consumers who will pull the plug if carmakers continue to cling to diesel and petrol for too long.  “It won’t be long until the German car industry will feel this fading love. For them, the most recent crisis has characteristics of Fukushima,” writes Bauchmüller.

Read the opinion piece in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers.


Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) “sugarcoated” reports on the emissions scandal investigation, bowing to pressure from the auto industry, writes Hanno Kautz in an article for Bild. In the original version of the report from 2016, KBA wrote of a “defeat device, according to regulation” in Porsche’s Macan, and then changed the wording after the car company intervened, writes Kautz. The final report read: “According to regulation, this can be seen as a modification of the emissions performance of the exhaust system.” An exchange between the authority and the manufacturer on technical questions was “standard and necessary international” procedure, the transport ministry (BMVi) told Bild.
In a separate interview with Bild, transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said the car industry had “the cursed responsibility to re-establish trust” and that the reputation of “Automobile Made in Germany” was in danger.

Read the article in German here, and the Dobrindt interview (behind paywall) in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy, and the interview “Diesel summit comes two years too late”.

Welt am Sonntag

German automotive component supplier Bosch will decide on whether to start its own battery cell production around the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018, Bosch’s chairman of the board of management Volkmar Denner told the Welt am Sonntag in an interview. Bosch faces strong competition in Asia and needs to find a “disruptive approach” in manufacturing technology, said Denner. If diesel sales continue to decline, Denner expects a shift towards petrol engines, because “for people, e-mobility is not a real alternative yet.”

Read the interview (behind paywall) in German here.

Der Spiegel / Spiegel Online

Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (the Christian Social Union, or CSU) wants to counter falling diesel car sales by reducing vehicle taxes on “low-emission Euro-6-diesel” cars, reports German weekly Der Spiegel. In a separate article, Spiegel Online writes that the federal environment ministry rejects such calls: “We’re not especially interested in supporting a technology that doesn’t belong on the streets in the medium term anyway,” said a spokesperson.

Read an online version of the original article in German here and the article on BMUB’s reaction in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy, and the interview “Diesel summit comes two years too late”.

Zeit Online

It is high-time for Germany to strongly push for the transition to zero-emissions transport, writes Green Party co-chair Cem Özdemir in a guest commentary for Zeit Online. “Pretending” that the end of diesel technology was still decades away is a “highly dangerous development: for Germany as a location for industry, for climate protection and for our health,” writes Özdemir. It is up to the government now to set the right regulatory framework with decisions like the nuclear phase-out and the expansion of renewable energies, writes Özdemir.

Read the guest commentary in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

General diesel driving bans are not a good solution in the emissions debate, as they would basically expropriate German car owners, chairman of Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG-Metall) Jörg Hofmann told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview. Hofmann spoke of a “highly unfair scandalisation” of the automobile by “supposed green groups.” “Some of what is currently said about so-called mortal danger of cars, is sheer humbug,” said Hofmann.

Read an article on the interview in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany.

Die Welt

If Germany’s car industry implements its long-announced shift to e-mobility and catches up with competitors in other countries, supplying it with raw materials for battery production and other e-car components could become a major challenge, Daniel Eckert writes in Die Welt. “Supply chain interruptions by only one supplier in the highly concentrated market for high-tech-minerals can lead to an explosion in prices,” Eckert says. Materials such as rare earths or lithium are needed for green technology, from e-cars to wind turbines and solar panels, and the political clout of important source countries like China is set to increase dramatically, he argues. Many of these raw materials are not traded on open markets “but have to be obtained via long-term contracts with producers,” he explains. If Germany’s next government initiates a true “car transition” towards e-mobility, global demand for lithium might substantially exceed global production, Eckart argues, adding that “nobody knows for sure.”

For more information on the Energiewende’s dependence on raw materials, see the World Bank report The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future.

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