Germany Goes Electric: All Cars Must be Emissions-free by 2030

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Michael Movchin
Electric car charging.

Germany’s ambitions aren’t small when it comes to combating the threat of climate change. By 2050, the European country hopes to cut up to 95 percent of its current CO2 emissions, and to do so it has decided on a bold new plan: to ensure that all newly made cars are emissions-free by the year 2030.

This decision follows on the heels of a recent cash-incentive program, announced in April of this year, to put more electric and hybrid cars onto German roads. The program, financed by a €600 million investment by the federal government, will give car buyers €4,000 when they choose to buy a purely electric vehicle and €3,000 when purchasing a plug-in hybrid. Germany also plans to invest €100 million into replacing its government fleet with electric cars, and a final €300 million towards improving the infrastructure and availability of electric-car recharging stations.

According to Germany’s Environmental Industry, this plan will help to put up to 500,000 more electric cars on the road by 2020—a year that also serves as Germany’s self-imposed deadline for cutting the nation’s emissions by 40 percent. So far, German car manufacturers Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW have signed on to the plan, which remains open to all foreign and national car brands.

Germany has already proven itself to be a world leader in battling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with renewable energy sources accounting for a third of the country’s electricity consumption last year. Yet while the reduction of emissions from electric power has been substantial, this same level of success has not yet been met in the transportation industry. Today, only 130,000 cars in Germany are hybrids, and a mere 25,000 are fully electric, compared to the 30 million gasoline cars and 14.5 million diesel vehicles currently found on the country’s roads. Altogether, electric cars make up only one percent of vehicles registered in Germany.

By placing an estimated 400,000 commercial and 100,000 governmental electric vehicles on the road, German Vice Chancellor and Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to make electric cars finally, as quoted by The Guardian, “mass market capable”—a goal that has eluded electric and hybrid car manufacturers for years.

While Germany’s plan to tackle the problem of greenhouse gas emissions is ambitious, it isn’t the only nation pushing for these changes. In August of 2015, against the backdrop of the Paris Climate Change Conference, seven U.S. states, four countries, and one Canadian province—among them California, Oregon, New York, Norway, the UK, and Quebec—agreed to the Zero-emissions Vehicle Mandate, a commitment to only allow automakers to sell zero-emissions vehicles by the year 2050.

The Netherlands has gone even one step further. In June, four major political parties agreed to put forward a proposal to ban gas-fueled vehicles by 2025. While Dutch politicians do not unanimously agree upon the goal, the proposal nevertheless shows a strong desire to take meaningful legislative action in the fight against climate change, a desire that finally seems to be turning into concrete plans in continental Europe.