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2013-05-28 08:47

AUTOMAKERS TO PUSH BATTERY RIDES: German automakers plan to launch 15 electric car models by late 2014, with plans to move into mass production by 2017. Picture here is BMW's electric i8. Image: BMW

BERLIN, Germany - Germany plans to have one million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020, but so far that goal seems remote as the nation's motorists have shown little love for the quietly humming vehicles.

So far, the number of electric vehicles registered in Germany is a mere 7000.

Nissan South Africa will launch the first electric vehicle on local shores in the form of the Nissan Leaf during September 2013. BMW SA will bring its electric i3 and i8 here from 2014 too.


We'll see whether SA consumers take to electric rides.

Chancellor Angela Merkel put on a brave face in light of the statistics, speaking Monday at a government-organised international forum in Berlin, where she affirmed that she is a believer in electric mobility.

"Our plans are ambitious," she conceded about the one-million goal pronounced by her government in 2009. "But we have a good chance of sticking to the timetable."

Her government has spent the equivalent of R18.2-billion to subsidise research and development in electric mobility and is promoting the models by scrapping car registration tax for the first 10 years.

However, unlike neighbouring France, Germany does not offer bonuses for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Electric cars produce no exhaust pipe emissions and can help clear the air in congested cities, while their carbon footprint ultimately depends on the type of energy used to charge their batteries.

Problems so far include the high cost of the batteries, usually lithium-ion types, and limited networks of charging stations, which make drivers fear being left on the side of the road with dead batteries.

After Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident Merkel rang in an ambitious energy transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power toward renewables such as wind, solar and biofuels.


Merkel said the push for electric cars would dovetail with that plan, to ensure that the power that drives electric cars is produced from clean, alternative energy sources.

Merkel said electric cars could be a "core sector of our industrial production", with the auto sector making up one quarter of Germany's exports.

So far Germans, used to putting their throttle pedals to the floor on the famous autobahn highways, have been slow to accept electric cars.

In the first four months of 2013, only about 1500 electric cars were newly registered, after a total of about 3000 in 2012. There are also 65000 registered hybrid vehicles with both electric and fuel engines.

Coordinator of the Platform for Electric Mobility that evaluates the electric car strategy, Henning Kagermann said: Under current conditions, 600 000 electric vehicles is a more realistic figure for 2020.”

Director of the automotive research centre of the University of Duisburg-Essen,  Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said: "Electromobility is treading water."

He said so far the market share of electric and hybrid cars is just 0.13%, calling it "less than a niche of a niche market".


But proponents say the boom is just around the corner.

German automakers plan to launch about 15 electric car models by late 2014, with plans to move into mass production by 2017.

Over the next three to four years, German industry is set to invest about R1.9-billion euros to develop alternative fuel engines.

VW chief Martin Winterkorn - whose company will launch the electric Golf later in 2013 - said that the government must help by improving infrastructure, such as a network of charging stations and incentives such as electric-car-only lanes.

In comments to the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, he said the one-million goal was realistic if prices fall with mass production, adding: "I am convinced that that can happen."

Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer also insisted "the government sees no reason to step back from the goal of one million electric cars by 2020. The first steps are usually the hardest, but sales will increase rapidly."

Philippe Varin, chief executive of PSA Peugeot Citroen, said "it will be a gradual process over 10 years" to convince consumers to embrace first hybrids and plug-in hybrids and finally 100 percent electric vehicles.”

Read more on:    angela merkel  |  germany  |  berlin

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