Auto industry between job loss and climate protection

The top meeting of the auto industry with the Federal Chancellor on Tuesday is about saving jobs and protecting the climate. On the agenda is also the purchase bonus for e-cars – and the question of where they should charge.

Charging stations for electric cars have so far been in short supply in Germany.

Vor a top-level meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the future of the auto industry, the Union and the SPD have spoken out in favor of extending purchase premiums for electric cars. This promotion had “led to a noticeable change of heart among consumers and manufacturers,” said SPD boss Norbert Walter-Borjans of the German press agency before the video conference on Tuesday evening. The government must now ensure continuity by extending the premium, but also by expanding charging capacities and manufacturing battery cells.

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) and the CSU had previously called for the extension of the e-car premium, through which car buyers can receive a subsidy of up to 9,000 euros – from 2021 to 2025 so far. Cars and plug-in hybrids that can drive both electrically and with petrol are promoted. Since the so-called environmental bonus was increased significantly via an innovation bonus, sales figures have increased.

Representatives of the auto industry as well as several countries, trade unionists and the leaders of the Union and the SPD are to take part in the video conference. A scrapping and replacement program for older trucks is also on the agenda – this was demanded by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU), among others. The “car summits” are about the future of the important industry, which on the one hand is under pressure in the Corona crisis, on the other hand is supposed to create the change to environmentally and climate-friendly mobility.

Subsidies for environmentally friendly trucks

A submission by the Chancellery in the run-up to the top-level talks, which had not yet been coordinated with all ministries, promised a further billion euros for the e-car bonus, as well as for truck subsidies – 500 million of which for companies and the same amount for public Acquisitions. In the case of trucks, models with new combustion engines that meet certain conditions, such as emitting comparatively few greenhouse gases, are to be promoted.

“For trucks and special emergency vehicles, we want a quick switch to the currently most environmentally friendly drives through fleet exchange programs,” said Walter-Borjans. However, e-mobility and CO2-free drives would have to be “noticeably more subsidized” than conventional drives.

Environmentalists criticize the project. An extension is “unacceptable”, said BUND traffic expert Jens Hilgenberg. This applies particularly to the promotion of plug-in hybrids. Instead, the federal government should help suppliers “to break the dependency on cars with new products”. Greenpeace expert Tobias Austrup said: “Instead of extending expensive premiums for e-cars until they never run out of business, significant surcharges are needed for climate-damaging cars.” Deutsche Umwelthilfe called for more goods traffic to be brought onto the rails instead of the truck scrapping bonus.

Backlog of charging stations

Green parliamentary group leader Anton Hofreiter called the possible extension of the purchase premium “right”, but also warned that it should be converted into a “bonus-malus system” that favors clean cars and makes cars that are harmful to the climate and the environment more expensive. “This is easy on the budget and finally puts the incentives more strongly on climate protection,” he told the dpa. Hofreiter criticized that the expansion of the charging station network was going far too slowly. “Manufacturers also have to meet their own promises to set up 15,000 charging stations of their own in public spaces,” he warned.

Because if you want electric cars, you also need charging stations – and from the point of view of the automotive industry association VDA there are still far too few of them. “Today there are already 13 e-cars on one charging point, according to our forecasts it will be 20 at Easter,” said VDA President Hildegard Müller of the dpa. The municipalities have “considerable catching up to do”. She wanted to address the topic clearly at the top-level discussion. “Having goals when ramping up electromobility is good – but I’m interested in the implementation,” she said.

On the other hand, the energy association BDEW had pointed out the day before that the number of publicly accessible charging points had meanwhile climbed to more than 33,000. According to the association, this means that more than 5,300 charging points have been added in the past six months – even though setting up a charging station does not yet pay off with the current number of e-cars. From the VDA’s point of view, around 200 charging points per week are by no means sufficient. According to the association, in order to achieve the government’s goal of a total of one million charging points by 2030, it would have to be ten times as many.

The ongoing topic of mobility data

The union IG Metall warned that it was about setting the course for a leading industry in Germany. “What is now being lost in terms of companies and jobs can no longer be innovative and also no longer be transformed,” said automotive expert Kai Bliesener of the dpa. He reiterated the union’s call for a participation model for suppliers of internal combustion engines, which are particularly under pressure. The state and manufacturers are obliged to participate in fund models.

Another ongoing topic in the industry is the handling of mobility data – such as those that cars need and transmit to enable autonomous driving. With a view to the deliberations, the ADAC warned that this was not just an issue for the car manufacturers. “On the contrary: Especially for the car sector, a solution is needed that secures the data sovereignty of the consumer,” said ADAC technology president Karsten Schulze of the dpa. After all, it is about personal data that are particularly protected for good reason.