Gabriel: We need to set the right market incentives

Most electric cars come from Germany. Speaking at the National Conference on Electric Mobility which took place from 15-16 June 2015 in Berlin, Minister Gabriel said that there is no other country that develops, produces and sells such a wide range of electric cars as Germany, and that the task now is to get more electric cars onto the roads.

Federal Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaking at the National Conference on Electric Mobility in Berlin.© BMWi

The first image that comes to mind when you hear "Made in Germany" is cars. Germany’s vehicle industry has been a defining feature of our country for over a century and we want to keep it this way. The vehicle sector is a key driver of innovation in our country, and is a major factor in our industrial strength. In order to achieve the energy targets we have defined as part of our energy sector reforms – i.e. increasing the use of renewables and reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions – one of our biggest challenges is to make cars more efficient. This is where electric mobility comes in. Speaking at the German government’s National Conference on Electric Mobility in Berlin, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Garbriel said: "We need to do all we can to ensure that electric mobility plays an important role in driving innovation and industry forward, and that it shapes the lead markets of the future".

Germany still to pick up greater speed as a "lead market"

Germany is now making good progress in vehicle development. By the end of this year, just under 30 models of electric vehicle made in Germany will be available on the market. Minister Gabriel said: "There is no other country that develops, produces and sells such a wide range of electric cars as Germany. But it’s not only about developing and offering electric vehicles for sale, it’s also about turning them into a mass market."
As the current number of new passenger car registrations shows, there is still room for improvement here. Today, there are almost 33,000 electric vehicles on Germany’s roads. However, the German market has developed a high level of momentum, with the number of sales in the first four months of this year rising by 95% compared with the same period last year.

Minister Gabriel later said that the German government’s target of getting a million electric cars on the road by 2020 was at risk of not being met, adding: "We need the right incentives to get more electric cars onto the roads". One option, he said, would be to introduce a special depreciation allowance for electric vehicles used for commercial purposes; another would be to set up a procurement programme to raise the number of electric cars used in the public sector – at federal, Länder, and municipal level. "We might even need to use both [of these models]," he said.

Electric mobility a key element in Germany’s energy reforms

Germany is continuing to develop its electric mobility infrastructure – raising the number of public charging points, introducing binding socket standards, and rolling out uniform methods of communication between electric cars and the electricity grid. It is the first Member State to have transposed European requirements for socket standards into national law. On top of this, the industrial sector has agreed to establish a national cooperation agreement that simplifies the process of billing for the electricity that has been charged to the car battery. The process of drafting this agreement was launched on 15 June in the hope that the final document can be developed as soon as possible. Minister Gabriel said: "Developing the charging infrastructure – not just the physical infrastructure, but also the systems used for charging and billing – is a key task. Both of these elements must be made as easy to use as possible. I am therefore delighted that the industrial sector will go on to conclude a cooperation agreement that will allow customers to charge their vehicles nationwide and that will enable different providers to bill customers for the electricity they have charged to their car battery. This will provide electric mobility with a further boost."

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is presenting specific technical proposals for the new electricity market design in a White Paper. This will establish the rights and obligations of operators of charging stations, providing extra legal certainty which will to make it easier for private investment to be made.
Minister Gabriel: "By focusing on electric mobility as one of the most important components in the new electricity market design, we are making one thing clear: electric mobility must always be understood as an integral part of the energy reforms." An electric mobility research programme operated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is being used to explore whether electric cars can be used as swarm batteries to temporarily store excess electricity when a buffer is needed. This is an important issue since the amount of electricity being fed into the grid is fluctuating more and more heavily as the use of renewable energy increases.

Promoting electric mobility: Showcases and lighthouse projects

The progress report published by the National Electric Mobility Platform, together with international comparisons, show that Germany has made good progress between 2011 and 2014 in its work to prepare the market. It is now a case of pushing this climate-friendly technology and of turning electric mobility into a mass market. To help make the step into this second phase, the German government is providing funding for four "showcase regions" across Germany (Berlin/Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria/Saxony and Lower Saxony). In each of these regions, around 500 partners from business, science, chambers, business associations and establishments run by the public sector have come together to bundle their expertise in the area of electric vehicles, the electricity supply, and transport systems, and to test out their joint work in what are known as real-life laboratories. This work is being funded by the Electric Mobility Showcases programme – the first programme of its kind, which is being used to fund the development and testing of state-of-the-art technology. Since 2012, the German government has also selected 22 projects to become what are known as electric mobility lighthouse projects. A further seven projects were selected at the National Conference on Electric Mobility, including the two projects that are being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. These are the SLAM (German acronym for "network of fast chargers for transport corridors and major cities") project, which focuses on rapid charging for electric vehicles, and the Adaptive City Mobility – e-Taxi project, which concentrates on the development of light-weight, zero-emissions electric taxis designed for use in the city.

Lighthouse projects are selected for their ability to make an important contribution to advancing technology and reducing costs in the area of electric mobility.