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ENERGY

Germany gets amped for electric cars

The German government unveiled plans Wednesday to get one million electric cars zipping around the country by 2020, offering sweeteners to jump-start national giants like BMW and Volkswagen into action.

Germany gets amped for electric cars
Photo: DPA

But getting a million electric cars on Germany’s streets is just the first step in Berlin’s “national electro-mobility plan,” which was approved by the cabinet.

“In 2030, this could be over five million. By 2050, traffic in towns and cities could be predominantly without fossil fuels,” the government’s proposal ambitiously states.

Berlin plans to spark development in electric cars by offering incentives for research in areas such as batteries and recharging systems, as it battles to catch up with Asian firms which have zoomed ahead of their German rivals.

“We are very confident that we in Germany can provide enough of an impulse to compete with the United States and Asia,” Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee told reporters.

“The Japanese are strong in hybrid technology but … the big markets in Europe, the United States and Asia are still open,” he added.

He said the goal of the plan was to “bring electro-mobility as quickly as possible into everyday life.”

The plan added that Berlin is “examining an incentive programme for the purchase of 100,000 electric cars,” but it nevertheless drew fire from green groups.

Environmentalists had called for a subsidy of around €5,000 ($7,050) for consumers to buy electric cars along the lines of Berlin’s €5-billion “cash-for-clunkers” scheme to support the traditional auto industry rolled out in January.

“The government has introduced a subsidy to sell an old technology but has not put in place incentives to buy the new electric vehicles,” Renate Künast, parliamentary group leader of the Green party, told the Weser-Kurier regional daily.

The motorists club of Germany (VCD) was also sharply critical of the proposals, saying flatly electric cars would not save the climate in the foreseeable future.

“The government says there could be a million electric cars on the road by 2020, but this is in comparison to 50 million petrol and diesel vehicles,” said Werner Korn from the VCD.

However, the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM), welcomed the plans, describing them as a “milestone towards improving the sustainability of road traffic.”

German luxury car maker BMW has already teamed up with auto parts maker Bosch and its Korean partner Samsung to supply lithium-ion batteries for a future electric city car.

Volkswagen hopes to turn out its first all-electric car in 2013, VW head Martin Winterkorn said in July. Meanwhile, Daimler launched its first hybrid model earlier in June, almost 10 years after the market leader, Japan’s Toyota.

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ENERGY

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.

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