skrivet av Maria Schnurr (RISE Viktoria)
From a German perspective, Sweden – or the Nordics in general – have long been perceived as a poster child when it comes to environment and sustainability. To hear from Swedish counterparts that the opposite also applies – like the outstanding endeavour in order to achieve the German “Energiewende” – usually comes as a surprise to Germans. That’s exactly what happened on the Parlamentarischer Abend Elektromobilität which took place on March 9th in the “Felleshus” (the Nordic Embassies) in Berlin. The working group on e-mobility of the Federal German Parliament had invited representatives from German and Swedish industry and R&D to discuss the prospects of electrified vehicles in the two countries. The program included keynotes by
followed by a plenary discussion with researchers and industry representatives.
The meetings started with a few words on the status quo of e-mobility in the two countries: Germany wants to have 1 million e-vehicles on the road by 2020, but had only 25,000 new registrations last year (accumulated volume of e-vehicles 2016: 50,000). Sweden, on the other hand, is already the country with the third-largest EV market share: 2015, it had 16,000 EVs on the road, and has seen year-to-year market share growth of more than 75%. This will contribute to the decarbonisation goal Sweden has set for 2050. After this, speakers quickly shifted to future issues. Challenges seem to be rather similar for the two countries:
- Legal issues: Even if not as complex as for autonomous driving, there are some minor, but tricky legal issues around e-mobility. Most relate to charging infrastructure on private grounds. The German Minister of Justice seemed eager to resolve the remaining issues before the elections.
- Charging infrastructure: Regarded as the bottleneck for wider acceptance, the day before the conference a major fund (300 million EUR) inviting communities and companies to compete for charging infrastructure funding had been released by the German government. The responses have been overwhelming – within a few days, 600 applications were received. The two Southern Bundesländer Baden-Württemberg and Bayern have also signed contracts with ABB to establish a full-coverage network of fast chargers – so the “range anxiety” issue will be effectively eliminated.
- Vehicles or mobility? The future of mobility needs to be about mobility, not vehicles, several speakers stressed. It is likely that OEMs will be able to generate more value from mobility services than from vehicle sales. It was even suggested to turn from “total cost of ownership” to “total cost of mobility” as a measure. The link between sharing and electric mobility was stressed most by Stefan Christiernin of NEVS. The company is eager to distribute their future vehicles not through conventional channels, but mostly through fleets and operators in order to contribute not only to cleaner and lower emissions, but also to more efficient traffic flows and less crowded, more liveable cities.
- Incentives: German politicians are being criticised harshly for not providing enough incentives so the goal of 1 million e-vehicles by 2020 actually can be achieved. However, the German government – which holds on to its 1 million vehicle goal despite its dire prospects – has already responded with a range of incentives. This includes a purchase premium (4.000 EUR), 10 years tax exemption (also available for retrofit e-vehicles), and plans to allow driving on bus lanes and park for free in certain cities. Sweden for sure has had a 40,000 SEK grant for vehicles with emissions of less than 50 g CO2/km since 2011. However, as Jakob Lagercrantz of the Swedish Sekretariat 2030 phrased it quite aptly, only once domestic manufacturers start building competitive e-vehicles will there be a home market for e-vehicles. Even niche manufacturers like Tesla are waiting for home manufacturers to enter the market with competitive models (“Tesla killers”).
- Research competence and production capacities: In the light of Europe not being able to compete with Asian battery development competences, domestic manufacturers should focus on their competencies in production. Longstanding experience in highly efficient vehicle and parts production is an underexposed issue where Europe could outcompete Asian competitors in the future.
- Rare earths and batteries: The raw materials for batteries are expensive, conflict-intensive and rare, so applying circular economy principle to batteries – extending their use and product life – will be essential in the future. A representative from a large battery supplier argued that the technologies to recycle and re-use batteries are well developed and market-ready. However, the key problem is to track and then redistribute used batteries to producers so they can start the next life cycle of the batteries. From this perspective, having a growing number of vehicles deployed in fleets and not owned by individuals will certainly be advantageous.
While concrete ideas about how the two countries can learn from each other and cooperate are yet to emerge, the evening was a good start to initiate further and deepen existing collaboration. After all, both countries are very eager to increase market shares for e-vehicles and have a state-of-the-art sustainable transport system.