„eMobility is the right way to go“

Together with his colleagues, Lukas Minnich has compiled an Electromobility Fact Check to answer some frequently asked questions about e-mobility. He talks about it in this short interview with blog editor Alexa Hännicke.
(Note: This is the English translation of an interview with Lukas Minnich. For the original German interview please click here).

Why did you and your team feel that an Electromobility Fact Check was needed?

There has been a lot of media coverage of what’s being called the “e-mobility myth” in recent months. These reports give the impression that due to the additional carbon emissions from the manufacture of electric vehicles, they have a poor climate footprint compared to cars that run on diesel or petrol. That’s quite simply false. Yes, there is some latitude in the figures on e-mobility and there is certainly room for improvement. Then there are the “horror stories” that frequently crop up in the press about the quantities of raw materials needed to manufacture electric drive systems. Here too, there is very little balanced argument. What is important is the comparison with the present situation: every day, we burn – very inefficiently – vast amounts of crude oil, a precious natural resource that is produced under often very questionable conditions. With our Fact Check, we are contributing to a more objective debate and providing recommendations on sensible ways of developing the e-mobility system as a whole. Simply switching to an alternative form of propulsion is not going to solve all the environmental problems in the transport sector, that’s true, but e-mobility is the right way to go. In my view, that’s the key message that we want to send to Fact Check readers. Incidentally, we want to attract international readers as well, so the Fact Check is now available in English.

The debate about electromobility has been overshadowed by the diesel scandal and reports about air pollution in cities. Hamburg recently became the first major city in Germany to ban certain diesel models – private and commercial – from some inner-city roads. Yet electric cars seem to have slipped out of focus, don’t they?

Electric vehicles are not only good for the climate; they can also make a major contribution to improving air quality. But it’s understandable that the municipalities are resorting to more restrictive measures as there is a lot at stake, legally speaking, for them. And they are quite rightly looking at the other negative impacts of motor transport, such as traffic congestion, accidents, land use and noise. So they don’t want to simply replace conventional vehicles with alternatives; their aim is also to reduce the overall number of private and commercial vehicles by improving local public transport, upgrading the cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and offering innovative mobility solutions for goods and people.

 What would you like to see as the next practical step, and from whom?

Many local stakeholders – municipal authorities and policy-makers, private individuals but businesses too – support the transformation of the transport system and therefore also the switch to e-mobility. However, the broader conditions in place mean that they sometimes fail:

  • Local authorities would like to encourage the use of e-vehicles by preventing conventional vehicles that produce very high emissions from entering the municipality. But to do so, they would have to be able to introduce a blue sticker system or tolls on inner-city roads.
  • Consumers would like to buy an electric car but manufacturers are not yet able to supply enough vehicles to meet demand.
  • Businesses are keen to encourage staff to replace their company cars with emissions-free alternatives but fail because carmakers offer the large diesel-powered vehicles – the popular option up to now – at unbeatable prices with substantial tax benefits.

The transformation of our transport system will not succeed unless the privileges afforded to private motor transport are scrapped. Ultimately, that will be to everyone’s benefit. Although subsidy schemes for vehicle purchases, research and the development of a battery charging infrastructure have been introduced at the federal level and even the car industry has begun to move in the right direction, I believe that more courageous steps are needed, particularly at these levels.

Lukas Minnich is a researcher in the Resources & Transport Division at the Oeko-Institut’s Darmstadt office. He works on topics such as electromobility, local public transport, commercial mobility, local climate action in the transport sector, and regulation of pollutants.

Further information

Electromobility – Fact Check: Frequently asked questions

„Faktencheck Elektromobilität“ – das umfangreiche FAQ des Öko-Instituts (German Version)

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