NOTE: I was in Berlin the whole weekend and just got back. A bit tired, and so no new post today.
The skeptic European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) here brings our attention to a documentary on electric cars by German flagship ARD public television broadcast recently.
German auto industry risks skidding out of control. Photo credit: BMW.
The news on the electric car situation in Germany does not look good. As it turns out that the government and industry are not really that serious about it, despite all the lofty green rhetoric.
In fact the ARD reports that Daimler has even stopped production of electric cars so that the production line could instead be used to produce regular internal combustion engine cars (ICEs) for deliveries to China and USA. So much for Daimler CEO’s pledge to “become a leader in electric cars.” In fact all German automotive CEOs posture as leaders in electric cars, but the reality is different.
So few cars sold in Germany
ARD wonders why so few electric cars are sold in Germany, despite test drivers finding them quite pleasant to drive – to a certain point. In fact ARD calls Germany e-car sales figures a “a catastrophe”, as only 32,000 electric cars have been registered so far. The target is 1 million by 2020, something that analysts now call “a fairy tale”. The German auto industry puts the blame squarely on the government.
But whose fault is it really for the terrible electric car sales in Germany? ARD decided to look into the topic more deeply and uncovered a number of reasons. They discover that the German automakers have in fact very little interest in pursuing electric cars, nor does the German government.
Despite claiming that cars can go 190 km on a full charge, ARD shows in fact that the real number for BMW e-cars is only about 120 km. And if the driver sets the car to not exceed the economical 90 km/hr speed and to not to use air conditioning, the range jumps only to 124 km. “A bit depressing,” says the test driver.
Moreover, the BMW i3 test vehicle featured by ARD has a sticker price of a whopping 35,000 euros ($37,000), “about one third more than a comparable petrol engine car,” says the ARD. “Way overpriced,” says the test driver. The question is why is the BMW i3 so expensive even though the ARD reports that the production cost of the lightweight vehicle is relatively low? The answer according to ARD is that the automotive companies want it that way. This explains why BMW sold only a bit over 16,000 cars worldwide last year.
No rush to electric cars
The truth is that the German automakers are putting the brakes on electric cars. There’s a very good reason for that, the ARD discovered. German automakers are in no rush to shift to electric cars because they fear such a move “would only devalue their ICE technology,” says automotive analyst Prof. Stefan Bratzel. “It is irrational for them to shift far into the electric sector.”
eGolf is only an optional variant
Also investigated is an eGolf car by VW. Also here the test driver is impressed by the overall feel of the electric car, but the price is also exorbitant at 35,000 euros — some 15,000 euros more than the comparable petrol version vehicle.
The ARD asks why eGolfs have the exact same look as the conventional Golfs, and so buyers are unable to show and make the statement that they are concerned about protecting the environment. Here the answer lies in the costs surrounding production, and parts sharing among models. The eGolf shares the exact same platform as the other ICE Golf models.
e-cars still remain in question
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn adds: “Currently everything is open when it comes to where the path of the various drives systems.” In summary: the future of e-cars, at least for Winterkorn, still remains in question. The ARD is taken aback by Winterkorn’s comment. For VW, the real money remains in ICE cars and there is little incentive to go electric.
German electric car battery plant shuttered
Another sign that electric cars are not being taken seriously by German automakers is the country’s only electric battery plant located near Dresden is slated to be shuttered. The ARD reports that the Evonik plant (owned by Daimler) will be closed by the end of the year (2016), citing that “it is not competitive” despite receiving a 30-million euro subsidy from the government! Today German automotive manufacturers must now rely solely on foreign battery suppliers, such as Samsung, Panasonic, or Tesla for their batteries. ARD in summary reports that Germany is all but out of the race when it comes to electric mobility technology.
Charging stations far too sparse
At the 21:00 mark of the documentary, the ARD switches the focus to more technical problems, namely the lack of charging stations in Berlin and elsewhere. The German television station shows that there are only a small handful in Berlin, making e-cars especially inconvenient and stressful to drive. In Amsterdam, Netherlands, on the other hand, charging stations can be found at almost every street corner, the ARD reports. Out in rural Germany, charging stations are virtually non-existent.
Exaggerated charging times
The ARD reports that the industry even exaggerates the battery charging time, as one test driver shows. Instead of the advertised 30 minutes needed for a “quick charge” in reality it takes 80 minutes. The “quick-charging” network in Germany is also a “catastrophe”, says Kurt Sigl, President of the Federal Association of Mobility.
Subsidies for show
Another peculiarity of the German automotive industry is that German automakers, despite making huge overall profits, are still receiving hundreds of millions in government (taxpayer) subsidies for e-mobility development. Even the charging station in front of BMW headquarters in Munich (27:52 mark) was paid for by a government subsidy to the tune of 900,000 euros!
So far German car producers have received hundreds of million in subsidies from the government, totally unnecessary experts say. There is little to show for it.
Cheating and fudging to meet new CO2 emissions standards
The German automotive industry faces yet another problem: their car fleets will have to meet strict EU CO2 emissions standards by 2020. By then the average car will be allowed to emit only 95 g of CO2 per km. Analysts say German carmakers will have to vastly expand the share of electric cars sold to 20%, an increase of 2000% in 7 years. Failure to meet the standards could mean billions in fines.
German government supports emissions cheating!
But the ARD explains that German automakers plan to cheat their way past the new standards by installing “hybrid” engines and through (legal) fudging during fuel emissions tests. Moreover, leading automobile and truck manufacturers have banned together under the ACEA automotive manufacturers lobby association with the aim of exerting pressure on the regulatory agencies to go easy – and of course with the full support of the German government. The government (unconvincingly) denies this before the ARD camera.
Under the bottom line: The new CO2 standards will be met solely by manipulation and test trickery, and hardly through cleaner engines.
Again the German auto industry and the government, despite all the green talk, are in fact not at all serious about moving away from ICEs and high-end luxury cars, where they are leaders, and over to competing in the ferocious, low-profit e-car sector. One huge juggernaut is that electric cars will be soon be mass-produced in China and sold very cheaply – even from merchandise stores, where they are expected to be snapped up like refrigerators. Electric cars thus threaten to end the huge German car industry, possibly in the matter of a decade.
Titanic clash between the German economic backbone and climatism
It’s clear that Germany ditching the ICE spells the end of a bulk of its mighty ICE auto industry, the very backbone of the country’s — economy which employs directly and indirectly 1 of every 6 German worker. What is coming is the titanic clash between climatism and the fundamental economic interests of the German nation. To save itself, Germany will need to show that efficient ICE’s are not bad for the climate, and that the science of climate change was faulty, and that their cars are in fact far superior to electric carts and do not damage the climate as claimed.
There’s no way that the bulk of the German car industry will be able to compete in the electric sector. Solar technology has shown us that with tens of thousands of German solar jobs getting recently annihilated by cheap Chinese manufacturers.
Unless the climate science nonsense and hysteria get put to rest, Germany risks seeing its energy and automotive sectors collapse.