Chancellor Angela Merkel backs incentives to reach EV goal

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will need to provide more incentives to meet a goal of having 1 million electric cars on the country’s roads by 2020.

“There is a lot to do,” Merkel said today during a press conference in Berlin. “We see that further subsidies are necessary. We must speak with the German states about that.”

Merkel is far behind in her push for 1 million electric vehicles in part because her government has balked at incentives like those offered by neighbor France, where consumers receive as much as  €6,300 ($7,840) to help cover the higher cost of low-emission vehicles.

Electric car sales in Germany last year were about 7,600 vehicles, while in France demand was almost double that at 14,400.

While deliveries this year have jumped about 68 percent, “we’re far from our goal to establish Germany as a leading market for electromobility,” said Matthias Wissmann, president of German auto-industry lobby VDA. “The government needs to act” to spur demand such as providing corporate tax breaks for electric cars, he said.

Merkel is trying to reduce emissions by pushing the country’s auto industry to build more electric cars after French, Japanese and U.S. carmakers got off to an early lead. German auto manufacturers will offer 17 electric models by the end of 2014, and another 12 will go on sale next year, according to the country’s VDA automotive industry group.

Merkel’s cabinet announced plans in September to offer electric-car buyers special privileges, backing a bill that would enable municipalities to offer drivers of battery-powered cars, fuel cell vehicles and some plug-in hybrids free parking and the right to use bus lanes.

There are about 24,000 electric vehicles on German roads currently and the country has 4,800 charging stations, said Henning Kagermann, a former SAP CEO who is heading the government’s electric car effort. Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Germany will add 400 stations at rest stops along the autobahn network to make it possible to travel across the country with electric vehicles.

“We need a super-charger infrastructure where you can charge 80 percent of the battery in 15 minutes,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “The government can help to establish standards for plugs to make the charging stations accessible for vehicles of all brands. We’re still very much in the wild electro-west.”

Zero-emission vehicles from German automakers include BMW Group’s i3 city car as well as electric versions of Daimler’s Smart two-seater and Mercedes-Benz’s B class. Volkswagen Group sells the Up minicar and Golf compact with electric motors.

The offerings follow the entry into the market of the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf.

The German government announced plans for a conference next summer in Berlin to discuss how the country can make further progress in electromobility.