December 14, 2017

To the surprise of some, Germany lags behind many of its fellow European nations in terms of reducing its carbon emissions. Members of the German populace unsatisfied with Germany’s standing in the movement towards greener technology have proposed a number of ways for the European powerhouse to catch up to its more sustainable neighbors, without injuring its enormous auto industry.

Take Parliament member Dieter Janecek, a member of the Green Party, who recently made public his plan to ban gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2025.

“The federal government must have the courage to enforce changes in the transport sector, to set the pace for innovation and set a clear direction for the transportation market,” Janacek stated.

Unfortunately for Germany, a number of projections have revealed that Germany may not be on track to meet its current goal of putting about 1 million electric vehicles on the street by 2020. Currently there are only 50,000 electric and hybrid vehicles registered in the entire country, and Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority has demonstrated that only .4 percent of the vehicles sold in 2015 were electric.

Green Party member MP Stephen Kuhn has offered one way of increasing these somewhat dismal numbers; the government could offer subsidies to people buying more environmentally friendly vehicles. He recently requested that parliament apply a 5,000-euro subsidy for drivers interested in purchasing electric cars as well as a 2,000-euro subsidy for drivers interested in buying hybrid vehicles.

While Janacek’s vision may be considered somewhat radical in a country with an automobile industry that employs over 750,000 people, leaders in the automotive market stated earlier this year that Germany’s needs to boost demand for electric vehicles is actually inline with its needs to maintain auto manufacturing dominance in global markets.

And Germany’s auto industry can’t quite afford another slip-up; last year’s VW scandal rocked the entire country’s infrastructure, and while negotiations between the shamed auto maker and the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency are ongoing, the German economy is likely to take a hit when the Justice Department’s announcement that it’s suing Volkswagen for violating U.S. environmental laws comes to term.

And who are these neighbors who are beating out Germany in terms of the adoption of electric- and hydrogen-powered cars? Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have made unprecedented progress in these fields. Norway already set a transport goal that aims for all new cars purchased by 2025 to be 100 percent emission-free (mind-boggling to the average American citizen, where auto manufacturers are scrambling to make cars that are all getting over 50 mpg by that point). Norway’s plan is being enacted through heavily taxing regular cars and offering tax exemptions to green car owners. In addition to this goal, Norway hopes to have all passenger automobiles, buses and commercial vehicles be battery-powered or run on hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The Netherlands holds the same 2025 goal, and its lower house recently supported the Dutch Labour Party’s motion to ensure that all cars run on eco-friendly engines by the end of 2025. Whether this intense motion will make it through Cabinet remains to be seen.

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