The German Path towards E-Mobility

Germany’s Green Transportation Targets, Status Quo and Outlook

E-mobility is, without question, a hot topic at the moment. Many companies, consumers, politicians, activists, among others, are discussing it, sharing their opinions and viewpoints. Focusing on Germany and its e-mobility situation, this becomes even more true: e-mobility is a central part of the public and political debate around sustainability. Let’s understand why that is, what the government plans, and what the future may hold.

Introduction and Definition

E-mobility, as you are probably well aware, essentially refers to modes of transportation that are electrically powered. Despite certain sustainability issues, specifically around the batteries contained in the vehicles, e-mobility is generally seen as one of the key possibilities to make transportation greener. The aim is to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action states the following:

“The development of electric mobility is a major forward-looking issue for German industry. In fact, electric vehicles can become a key element of the energy transition.”

In 2018, the German government had adopted several measures to promote e-mobility, such as a purchase grant for e-vehicles and the increase in charging infrastructure.

Germany’s Goals: The Climate Change Act 2021

The German government amended several climate protection targets in 2021. To be more precise, these targets include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by minimum 65% by 2030, in comparison to 1990 levels. By 2045, the Federal Government aims to achieve climate neutrality.

For six individual sectors specifically, the government set up annual emission budgets. To enforce these, monitoring processes have been set in place, along with a policy adjustment mechanism. Every year, on March 15, sectoral emissions are measured and estimated by the German Environmental Protection Agency (UBA) and compared to the set targets.

In case a sector’s emissions are too high, the corresponding ministry needs to prepare a program (Sofortprogramm) in less than three months to adjust the emissions trajectory. To guarantee objectivity, the program is also reviewed by an external council (Council of Experts on Climate Change), whose assessment is presented to the German parliament for decision.

Focusing once more on the mobility sector, the key number for 2030 is 15:

The goal is to have 15 million electric cars in Germany by 2030.

Along with that, one million public charging points should be in available by 2030. The ratio between the cars and charging points is quite important. Generally, a ratio of 1:10 would be considered optimal. However, the current trend is towards a lot more electric vehicles in relation to charging points, which might cause issues down the road.

Green Mobility: The Status Quo

As part of achieving the climate targets, the German government is investing large sums into the electrification, especially through providing tax incentives and subsidies. However, compared to other sectors, transportation has been among the slowest to reduce its emissions, missing its targets in 2021.

On the bright side, taking a look at 2021, Germany experienced a large jump by around 73% in electric vehicles sales in comparison to 2020. In fact, Germany’s market of electric vehicles was the largest in Europe as of 2021.

Moreover, a large milestone was recently achieved in the mobility sector. In December 2022, 1 million electric vehicles were in use according to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). But is this proof that the target of 15 million electric cars will be met?

For one, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) views the mobility developments as somewhat below the targets, but also does not anticipate any major setbacks in its forecasts. Similarly, the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research believes that the 15 million target is still achievable through a market increase of electric cars within the next years.

Additionally, the German government recently announced that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would also be included in the target, increasing the likelihood of achieving it. Already in 2020, around half of the electric vehicles sold in Germany were plug-in hybrids. While they provide flexibility for car owners, plug-ins should be viewed as a transitional technology, as they still use fossil fuels.

Outlook in the Transportation Sector

Achieving 16 million electric vehicles by 2030 is possible viewed as possible – within an aggressive forecasting scenario including an EU ban on combustion vehicles, which would also cause severe economic struggles.

An additional key difficulty in achieving this target is the procurement of specific car components, such as microchips and raw materials including cobalt, lithium and nickel. These materials are by no means assured, endangering the manufacturing of electric vehicles. Another part of the equation is the electricity supply, which requires collaboration between several stakeholders, complicating matters even more.

Alternative technologies such as biofuels made from renewable resources or hydrogen fuel cells, or even electricity-based fuels are also commonly brought up in mobility discussions. The main issue with these remains the high cost – as of now, they are not present in the market. Nevertheless, the theoretical possibility remains to develop these fuels as a long-term solution to complement electric vehicles.

All in all, the transportation transition needs to not only take into account the goal of 15 million electric cars just for the sake of it. Instead, it is crucial focus on energy efficiency, traffic avoidance, and changing behaviors.

Tips and Thoughts

Coming to the end of this article, what are your key takeaways? Were you aware of Germany’s climate targets? Do you think they will be able to meet them? Also, what are your country’s climate targets for the transport sector?

Also, if you want to become greener in your own transportation, we have some tips for you:

  • Use public transportation where possible, save money and emissions.
  • Carpool with your friends to go to places to reduce your transportation costs and make the drive more enjoyable.
  • Look up carsharing options in your area and make use of them to avoid having to own a car yourself.
  • Buy an electric vehicle if you do need your own car and use available government incentives to facilitate your purchase.

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  1. Sara

    Interesting… I wasn’t fully aware of the German governments mobility ambitions! I wonder though if this kind of “simple” goal of having X amount of cars is really the right approach? I feel like emissions are the better way to go… Although the cars of course contribute as well

    • Komoneed

      Sara, thanks for your comment!… There is no simpe solution, however, what’s important is that they are taking decision for the better… While other countries are doing nothing at all!

  2. Marcus

    Super cool to learn about these control mechanisms, seems like a good system – given that things actually will improve in terms of emissions and overall sustainability…

    • Komoneed

      Thanks Marcus! It’s a great example for all of us!

  3. Pauline

    I never really considered the ratio to charging stations tbh, but interesting, that it may not even be an optimal ratio that Germany is heading for

    • Komoneed

      There is still much debate about what energy sources future vehicles will actually use… Also, unfortunately, the lobbying actions of energy industries add to this debate…

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