“The German automotive industry is greatly committed to its strategy of ‘moving away from oil.’ We are loosening the ties to fossil fuels step by step. Today our manufacturers already have around 30 series models with electric drive on offer, and numerous additional models have been announced for the next few years,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).
“In the medium to long term the future lies in alternative powertrains and fuels. Here the electrification of the drivetrain has an important role to play. However, we need a healthy mix of propulsion systems as we move along this path. That includes the plug-in hybrid, plus gasoline and diesel systems. And of course we need a realistic timetable. The most recent call for political measures to eliminate the internal combustion engine in 2030 does not make sense for climate policy, industrial policy or social policy. It is definitely not going to work – not in any industrialized country in the world,” Wissmann underscored.
The automotive value-added created by industry in Germany and in Europe would remain closely associated with the combustion engine for the foreseeable future, Wissmann stated. “Its premature, politically forced demise would strip this key sector of its financial basis for investing in new technologies – with the attendant consequences for Germany as an automotive production location,” he emphasized.
At this time, electric vehicles make up less than one percent of the German market. Forecasts assume that in about ten years from now 15 percent of all new vehicles worldwide will be electrified. Wissmann explained that it was also necessary to establish a charging infrastructure with total coverage – in Germany, Europe and other countries.
“Even companies that set themselves very ambitious targets for electric mobility assume that in 2030 two thirds of new vehicles will still be powered by internal combustion engines. The firms have to use the sales of these cars with ‘classical drive trains’ to finance the huge investments in alternative powertrains,” Wissmann stressed. If politicians block off this “source” it will obstruct the path to the mobility of tomorrow. The VDA president’s advice was not to confuse the public with illusory suggestions.
Instead, Wissmann continued, politicians – in Germany and the EU – should resolutely push forward the creation of a charging infrastructure for alternative powertrains. A forward-looking approach would also involve keeping to the middle ground when it came to regulation, leveraging innovation potentials for digitization, measures for replacing the fleet, an intact road infrastructure and other areas of flexibility. Today the EU already had the most ambitious CO2 regulation anywhere in the world, Wissmann underscored.
He pointed out that when the Federal Minister for the Environment claims the traffic sector has so far “unfortunately not contributed anything” to action on climate, that is a representation ignoring important facts. The fact is that absolute CO2 emissions from road traffic in Germany were 11 percent lower in 2014 than they were in 2000 (153.2 million t vs. 172.5 million t). Over the same period, the total transportation by passenger cars and commercial vehicles (person-km plus tonne-km) rose by 17 percent.
“Our companies – manufacturers and suppliers alike – are right at the center of a shift in mobility driven by the two megatrends of alternative powertrains and connected and automated driving. It is clear that this will bring massive changes to the automotive value chain and realign it. The German automotive industry invests over 30 billion euros every year in research and development. The lion’s share of this goes on electric mobility and digitization. In a phase of ‘automotive disruption’ like this, the industry needs the policymakers at its side – with smart ideas and a modern policy for the environment and business,” Wissmann said.
“Politicians always did well to work on the regulatory conditions. But as soon as they thought they had to issue technological requirements the result was an economic dead end. Calling for the ‘end of the combustion engine’ in 2030 has elements of a planned economy that do not take account of either technological progress or the needs of the customers. An approach of this type is anything but modern or innovative – instead it only looks backwards,” Wissmann underscored.