How many e-cars would be needed by 2030 to achieve the emission targets for road traffic and what is realistic? While some are fully committed to electrification, at the same time the realisation is dawning: it is not going to work without alternative fuels.

Photo credit: © Lena_karpi, Nr. 1936032712 /

The August 2021 analysis of e-mobility by Deutsche Bank already makes it clear that electrification cannot be the only means of achieving the goals of the change in traffic policy. For the State – and therefore society – is paying a high price for prioritising e-mobility, the authors claim.

In no significant automobile market will electric cars achieve a significant market share without a subsidy regime. In Germany, for instance, in addition to the direct purchase premiums granted by the State for electric cars, there are further fiscal effects during their use. As can be gathered from the Deutsche Bank analysis, they result “from lower tax revenues (energy or mineral oil tax versus electricity tax, motor vehicle tax, CO2 levy on petrol and diesel, value-added tax)”. Decreasing tax revenues when electric cars are used as company cars are a further factor.

Throughout the entire duration of use, the authors therefore calculated fiscal effects of more than 20,000 EUR if a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is operated in the upper middle class instead of a car with an internal combustion engine.

This means that the still minor effect on the climate of electrification in transport comes at a high price. The CO2 abatement costs, however, exceed the threshold of 1,000 EUR per tonne. By way of comparison, the prices for CO2 certificates in European emissions trading are significantly lower, even though they exceeded the record level of 90 Euros per tonne for the first time in December 2021.

What is more, extensive e-car subsidisation causes growing socio-political imbalance. This is because the advantages of the subsidies predominately benefit higher wage-earners who can afford an e-car, while the costs fall on everyone’s pocket.

Nevertheless, a study published in January 2022 by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy on behalf of Greenpeace calculated that the 15 million pure e-cars set the 2030 target by the German government would not be sufficient to reduce CO2 emissions in transport as intended.

Instead, more than 17 million plug-in hybrids would need to be added or the number of pure electric vehicles would need to be increased to 20 million.

However, the Wuppertal Institute has completely disregarded essential aspects:

  • According to a Dataforce analysis, 1.77 million e-vehicles – about 50 to 60 per cent of new registrations – would need to be introduced onto the road in Germany every year from now on, merely to reach the 15 million mark. In 2021, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority estimated that there would be around 356,000 new BEVs (just under 14 per cent). If 20 million BEVs are to be achieved, more than 2 million would have to be newly registered each year. In view of the total number of registrations, which only amounted to 3.6 million before Corona and fell to around 2.6 million in 2021, as well as the fact that BEV registrations will not sharply increase six-fold over the next few years, this is already mathematically impossible.
  • With the German electricity mix, e-cars are still far from being genuinely CO2-neutral – quite apart from the CO2 backpack they carry as a result of battery production, which they still have to offset during their use.
  • It also makes little sense to forcibly withdraw functioning existing vehicles from circulation. On the one hand, many continue to operate in countries with less stringent CO2 requirements, which makes precious little contribution to global climate protection. On the other hand, the production of new vehicles generates additional emissions that could be avoided by continuing to run existing cars.
  • Ultimately: as long as no solution is found for the existing fleet, the emission targets in transport cannot be achieved. Even if there were around 20 million e-cars on the road in Germany in 2030, there would still be around 28 million cars with internal combustion engines. With alternative fuels such as sustainable biofuels or e-fuels, these vehicles could immediately be operated on a climate-neutral basis.
    This does not require any bans, or new, expensive charging infrastructure, power networks or additional taxes for internal combustion engines, but simply a transport policy that takes equal account of all options and admits that it is not the engine but the fuel used that is crucial for a vehicle’s emissions.