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E10 sales efforts fail to ease driver fears

The majority of German drivers continue to avoid the controversial E10 biofuel, despite increased efforts to educate the public about its safety, a media report said Tuesday.

E10 sales efforts fail to ease driver fears
Photo: DPA

“There is no change in the trend,” spokesperson for petroleum company Total, Manuel Fuchs, told daily Bild, which surveyed fuel providers across the nation.

“The sales of E10 for auto fuel remain at just 20 to 25 percent,” he added.

Spokesman for the country’s leading gas station chain Aral, Guido Brandenburg, reported that depending on location, the chain was selling the ethanol mix to between just 30 and 40 percent of drivers whose cars were compatible with the fuel.

According to Shell, acceptance of the product remains “unimproved,” with only one in three E10 compatible vehicles filling up with the fuel.

“Our hope of a change in the trend has unfortunately gone unfulfilled,” a spokeswoman at competitor Esso said.

In late March a poll by German automobile club ADAC showed that 85 percent of drivers rejected the petrol out of hand. Their concerns included a disbelief in its benefit to the environment, and fears that it might damage their cars or lower fuel efficiency.

While the fuel is suitable for most cars, gas efficiency does fall slightly.

The ongoing unpopularity of E10 has depleted stocks of traditional grades as drivers decide to fill up with what they know and trust.

The German government has come under intense criticism for its handling of the fuel’s introduction, with many people saying it failed to inform the public which cars could safely drive on the new gasoline.

A “fuel summit” between the government and oil companies in early March sought ways to address the problems with E10’s acceptance, including launching an information campaign clearly laying out which cars could run on the new fuel.

But the petroleum industry has demanded that the tax on E10 be slashed in response to the poor sales.

Government standards oblige the petroleum industry to make 6.25 percent of its total fuel sales biofuels in 2011.

DAPD/ka

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CARS

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla’s giant Berlin car factory

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla's giant Berlin car factory
Tesla's gigafactory outside the doors of Berlin. dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I couldn’t believe it,” said Steffen Schorch, driving his trusty German-made car.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July.

“Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark – but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters – residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful
environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

READ MORE: Is Germany’s Volkswagen becoming ‘the new Tesla’ as it ramps up e-vehicle production?

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption – which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic metres a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region.

Tesla Street

“The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighbourhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now”.

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares – equivalent to approximately 560 football fields – southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world”,
according to group boss Elon Musk.

In a little over a year and a half, swathes of coniferous forest have already been cleared to make way for vast concrete rectangles on a red earth base, accessed via the already iconic Tesla Strasse (Tesla Street).

German bureaucracy

The new site still has only provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk.

Final approval depends on an assessment of the project’s environmental impact – including the issue of water.

In theory, if approval is not granted, Tesla will have to dismantle the entire complex at its own expense.

But “pressure is being exerted (on the regulatory authorities), linked to Tesla’s significant investment”, Gruene Liga’s Michael Greschow told AFP.

In early April, Tesla said it was “irritated” by the slow pace of German bureaucracy, calling for exceptions to the rules for projects that help the environment.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed in April that his government “had not done enough” to reduce bureaucracy, lauding the gigafactory as a “very important project”.

Despite Germany’s reputation for efficiency, major infrastructure projects are often held up by bureaucracy criticised as excessive by the business community.

Among the most embarrassing examples are Berlin’s new airport which opened last October after an eight-year delay and Stuttgart’s new train station, which has been under construction since 2010.

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Joerg Steinbach, raised the possibility in February that the Tesla factory could be delayed beyond its July planned opening for the same reason.

SEE ALSO: Tesla advertises over 300 jobs for new Gigafactory near Berlin

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