Oversubsidised – Overexerted: Is e-mobility ready for the market?

The goal of the German federal government to get 1 million electric cars on the streets by 2020 is getting more and more criticized as today´s numbers are disillusioning: On January 1st 2014 there have been officially 12.000 electric cars registered in Germany. Norway is a big step ahead: Already 32.000 e-cars are on the streets – with a population of just 5.1 million. If Germany had a similar quota the objective for 2020 could be achieved quiet easily.

There are many reasons for the success in Norway – most of them are various affirmative actions. Electric cars are pushed massively by subsidies, tax cuts, free-of-charge electricity at public car parks and privileges on the streets. One of many examples: electric cars are allowed to use the bus lanes. But this causes not only happiness: During the rush hours up to 85% of the traffic on the bus lanes is caused by electric cars – which has a negative impact on public transport.

These numbers are also an important message for Germany where a new law will be approved by the parliament very soon. From February 1st, 2015, German local governments can allow electric cars to use the bus lanes and can give the drivers the right to park the cars on free-of-charge parking.

This brings up a crucial question: is it clever or even counterproductive to give so many privileges to electric cars? Again, Norway delivers interesting numbers: 48% of EV owners say they have bought the vehicle mainly because of the federal subsidies, according to Wirtschaftswoche. For 27% the protection of the environment was the main reason. Only 12% have decided to buy an electric car because of the privileges which allow them to save time – which means the access to bus lanes and free parking.

What does that mean for Germany? One thing seems to be clear: In the opinion of most people electric cars are not ready for the market yet without federal subsidies. Costs and the lack of range are amongst the main obstacles. In theory the federal government could subsidies e-mobility, but the costs would be enormous for a country with such a big population. This is why the main responsibility is with the vendors who have to come up with even more convenient and attractive solutions which convince people to switch to e-mobility. Only if the products really meet the demands of the public we will see a sustainable change.

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