There is a tremendous gap between one’s aspirations and reality. Germany would like to lead the market for electric cars. The government has set the goal of having one million e-cars on Germany’s roads by the year 2020. In reality, the amount of registered electrically powered cars is in the low five-digit range.
According to the European car manufacturer’s association Acea, exactly 4.542 battery- and plugin-hybrid engine cars were registered in Germany in the first quarter of 2015. This corresponds to approximately 0.6 percent of the total market, and is far from the government’s ambitious goals. The situation is completely different in Norway, where the electric car is more successful than in any other country in the world. Almost 23 percent of the cars registered in the beginning of this year run on electricity – that is approximately every fifth car! This is surprising, taking into consideration Norway’s low density of population and the e-cars limited reach, which upon quick glance seems more suited for German metropolitan areas.
This unequaled success was made possible by means of extensive support measures. Normally, car buyers in Norway need to pay a high one-time registration tax. This can quickly amount up to more than 10.000 euros depending on the emissions and the weight of the vehicle. These fees don’t need to be paid when buying electric cars, which especially favors high-performance models. Additionally, the state waives the sales tax of 25 percent for e-cars. With this, some electric cars are cheaper than comparable models with a diesel or petrol motor. Besides financial incentives, the government aid also offers numerous benefits in everyday situations. The subsidy package includes free municipal parking and the use of the bus lane. Especially in the capital’s traffic jams this can come in handy. Moreover, the Scandinavians profit from well developed infrastructure: there are almost 7.000 charging points in the country – a lot of them in front of companies, shopping malls or town halls. By now, the Norwegian government’s program is almost too successful: The target of 50.000 e-cars was already reached mid-April – more than two years earlier than expected. Politicians are thus slowly beginning to revoke certain privileges. Leased electric vehicles are no longer exempt from the sales tax. Beginning 2018, tax rebates for all e-cars will be restricted step by step. In the future, the individual municipalities will decide on free parking and the use of bus lanes for e-cars.
What can Germany learn from the Norwegian model?
The extensive subsidization Norway’s surely cannot be transferred to Germany one-to-one. The conditions are too different from each other to do so. An example: On the Norwegian autobahn the speed limit is 100 km/h – this economic way of driving meets the reach of electric cars.
Nevertheless, the responsible people in politics and the industry need to analyze the individual measures in detail and adjust them appropriately. Only with a good charging infrastructure, and the purchase of an e-car being worth it in financial terms, customers will accept the limited radius and longer loading times of electric vehicles.
In order to ensure long-term demand, vehicles with alternative drives need to be suitable for daily use – and not be a status symbol for the environmentally conscious elite. Car buyers in Germany don’t take risks. They rather unconsciously assess with how many people in their environment they can discuss their experiences with e-cars. For this, a critical mass of buyers needs to be reached – by means of governmental incentives, the appropriate infrastructure and suitable car models made by the manufacturers. Yet other factors also influence the purchasing behavior: Ever since the VW-scandal came to light, more Germans than ever before have decided to buy an e-car. According to the Federal Office for Motor Transport, 2.717 cars that run purely on electricity and vehicles equipped with a plugin-hybrid drive were newly registered in Germany in October of this year. With this, the share of e-cars in Germany rose to one percent for the first time. Not much, but an important step in the right direction.
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