The majority of Germans still do not want to do without their car. According to the data published by the German Federal Statistical Office in 2021, the share of private cars in motorised passenger transport was more than 80 per cent in 2019. Buses and trains together accounted for less than 20 per cent. The Germans, incidentally, are fully in line with their European neighbours in this respect. The dominance of the car is similar in this case.
The level of car ownership in this country has increased accordingly over the past decades. While there were 532 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in 2000, according to the Federal Environment Agency, this number had risen to 580 by 2020 (1st January 2021 record date).
At the same time, it is foreseeable that the number of cars with internal combustion engines on German roads will not be declining in the near future. In 2021, the share of purely electric battery-powered new vehicles was a good 13 per cent. Conversely: slightly fewer than 87 per cent of newly registered vehicles had at least one internal combustion engine on board as well; around 57 per cent were pure petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles with internal combustion engines.
It is now a political strategy, however, not only to reduce emissions in road traffic, but to avoid individual transport. In a national pedestrian strategy published by the Federal Environment Agency back in 2018, the reduction in car density to a long-term value of 150 cars per 1,000 inhabitants is mentioned as a goal. That would only be around a quarter of the current car density.
How realistic is this and what do people in Germany want?
The 2022 DAT Report published by the German Automobile Trust (DAT) at the beginning of February 2022 provides detailed answers to these questions. For the comprehensive study, 4,500 final consumers were surveyed.
The car remains highly important
With an average of 79 per cent – which is even 4 percentage points more than in 2020 – the vast majority of individuals do not want to do without their cars in everyday life. In small towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, this proportion is as high as 86 per cent, and in large cities it is still 69 per cent.
Electromobility between aspiration and reality
On the one hand, pure battery-powered cars or hybrid vehicles are perceived as omnipresent. According to the current DAT report, however, they still play a subordinate role in everyday life.
It is true that the interest of new car buyers in 2021 in purchasing a private car with alternative drive systems has increased significantly (59 per cent). Among car owners, however, only just under half (46 per cent) said they could imagine switching to a purely electric vehicle. The remainder, according to the DAT report, either cannot imagine it at all (31 per cent) or are still unsure (22 per cent). Moreover, most of those willing to make the switch (79 per cent) do not intend to purchase such a car with an alternative drive system for three years or more.
The reservations regarding battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are apparently still quite high. The majority of those surveyed (67 per cent) still want to wait for a further technological advance. Additionally, fever than half those surveyed (46 per cent) believed that BEVs were environmentally friendly to operate and only 12 per cent saw an environmental advantage in their production.
Synthetic fuels (e-fuels) produced based on hydrogen, CO2 and renewable electricity are now apparently enjoying increasing popularity. Among all new car buyers, 35 per cent have already investigated this alternative fuel, according to the 2022 DAT Report. Sixty per cent of this subgroup confirmed that e-fuels are “promising” and represent “a climate-friendly alternative to electromobility”.
Purchasing a new car is becoming increasingly complex
Delivery difficulties in the new vehicle area and a lack of supply of used cars led to significant declines in both segments in 2021. Thus, according to data from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, there were 6.7 million ownership registrations and 2.62 million new registrations last year.
Prices rose at the same time and have never been higher, both for used and new cars.
It is therefore hardly surprising that the average age of the private car fleet in Germany is shifting increasingly towards 10 years. The vast majority of car drivers take appropriate care of their set of wheels. This also means of course: the fleet of vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines is not only increasing in size every year, but is also growing older.