Blog Post

Germany Kicks Off Plug-in Vehicle Push

Daimler e-Mobility Berlin

A decade from now, electric cars in Germany will number at least 1 million. At least, that’s the goal established today by some of the country’s largest manufacturers and German Chancellor Angela Merkel under a new alliance dubbed the National Platform for Electric Mobility. It’s an ambitious target, considering that Germany’s overall car sales totaled fewer than 4 million units in 2009.

For comparison, grid operators in the U.S. and Canada anticipate 1 million plug-in vehicles will be deployed across all of North America within 5-10 years.

To help rev up the country’s nascent electric vehicle market, the German government today announced plans to provide 12 million euros ($15.9 million) for researching batteries for electric vehicles. The award will go to a project led by Volkswagen’s lithium-ion research-focused joint venture with Varta Microbattery.

But Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn wants to see a bigger federal push. He called today for the German government to provide direct incentives to electric car buyers by 2013 — the year that VW aims to start selling 300,000 electric vehicles annually (about 3 percent of the company’s global sales volume).

As Germany’s Der Spiegel reports, some top German officials see electric vehicle technology as an area where “Germany’s most important industrial sector could be falling behind internationally.” The country’s economics and transport ministers, as well as Chancellor Merkel have called for concentrated, urgent efforts to catch up.

Citing several-thousand-euro incentives available for EV buyers in France, VW’s Winterkorn said in a statement Monday that he also wants the German government to “very quickly make provisions for broad coverage with a network of recharging stations across the republic.” According to Der Spiegel, VW, BMW and Daimler also want the government to introduce standards for charging stations and offer, “billions in subsidies, first for research and development and later for the buyers of electric cars.”

How the government will respond to these calls, and what types of projects might get funding and incentives under this new EV push, remain to be seen. According to a Dow Jones Newswire report out of Berlin this morning, today marks just the kickoff of new task forces assigned to support various aspects of the EV ecosystem. The first detailed proposals for developing drivetrain and battery tech, as well as infrastructure and other initiatives, are expected to emerge later this year.

These latest moves by the German government and companies comes about a year after the country’s government awarded €21 million ($27.9 million) to a battery development consortium of 18 industrial and research partners, including chemical giant BASF, Volkswagen, the Fraunhofer Institute and the University of Berlin. But in a market where firms like Japan’s Nissan and Panasonic, China’s BYD, South Korea’s LG Chem, and France’s Renault are already making aggressive bets, and where the U.S., China and many EU governments are offering subsidies, the pressure’s on to get infrastructure in place and competitive cars on the road.

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Report: IT Opportunities in Electric Vehicle Management