Baden-Württemberg’s Minister for Transportation Winfried Hermann (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of the automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG, agree on what has to be done, but not on how exactly it should be done. Climate change prevention and air pollution are currently the top issues in the transportation sector. They thus shaped the debate at the latest “Mobility of Tomorrow”, an event the VDA has now hosted eight times at its Berlin location.
What possible and/or needed contributions can traffic and transportation make to prevent climate change? And what is the current situation with technologies that will bring about a CO2-free future? These were the main questions of the discussion, and the CEO of ZF made it clear that the industry is prepared to do more to prevent climate change: “No one in the German automotive industry opposes moving in this direction. The only question is what the right pace should be,” said Scheider, pointing to the efforts his company is already making.
ZF, one of the most important German automotive suppliers, has invested around two billion euros in researching new and climate-friendly drive technologies in recent years. And a further 12 billion euros will be invested in future technologies like E-mobility and autonomous driving over the next five years. “We are making massive investments,” said Scheider. But he also mentioned that it is costing the company considerable effort.
However, Scheider also said that the EU’s current objective of reducing CO2emissions by 35-40 percent within the next 12 years is too ambitious.According to Scheider, this is too abrupt and could ultimately lead to the loss of jobs.
Winfried Hermann, Transportation Minister of Baden-Württemberg, warned: “If the German automotive industry lacks ambition, it will eventually lose even more jobs”. The industry must be more competitive in the international market, he said “If you take a look at the situation in other countries, you can see that much progress is being made,” said Hermann. In contrast, there is “no reason to be really satisfied with the situation” in Germany.
Extensive transformations are necessary to achieve climate change prevention objectives, stated the Minister of Transportation. Getting emission-free vehicles on the road is only one of several necessary changes. Indeed, one-third of vehicles must be CO2-free by 2030. In addition, urban traffic should be reduced by about 30 percent. At the same time, there is the goal of doubling public transportation in cities, helping to make about half of all trips possible on foot or by bike, Hermann said.
“Politicians have been handling the automotive industry with velvet gloves in recent years,” he criticized. ZF CEO Scheider challenged this statement: “The government was not too soft on us, even though the industry has undoubtedly made mistakes.” At the same time, he urged the responsible parties to move forward with climate change prevention that was “free of ideology” and “open to technology”.
Coexistence of drive technologies
“Electric mobility cannot be the magic bullet for the fulfillment of climate goals”,Scheider stated. He pointed out that the production of battery cells requires considerable energy expenditure. The carbon footprint of an electric car always depends on its service life. Moreover, an electric car running on coal-based electricity hardly contributes to sustainable climate change prevention.
Instead, Scheider argued for a “coexistence of drive technologies” that unequivocally includes the modern internal combustion engine. Especially because the internal combustion engine is an integral part of hybrid drive systems. Dual drives are an ideal solution for people who do not have several cars and who cannot thus choose which one to drive depending on the occasion, such as city use or vacation travel. Indeed, they are a better solution than the public debate in this country has made them out to be. “In my view, hybrid technology is referred to as a stopgap technology too often. This makes the technology “sound like something temporary,” Scheider said.
Every third patent worldwide from Germany
Those who concentrate on electric mobility too exclusively in the current situation also have to consider the high cost of the technology, Scheider continued. This is especially relevant for political decision-makers in cities and municipalities. As such, conversion of urban fleets for local traffic to electric mobility is politically desirable, but it also means high costs in the initial phase. “The market simply isn’t entirely there yet,” said Scheider. An increase in demand would accompany declining prices if the high initial investment amortized.
Yet everyone was in agreement on one point: Future developments will take place much faster than in the past. “The industry has a lot in the pipeline,” said Winfried Hermann, appealing to its research and development spirit. In his initial remarks, VDA President Bernhard Mattes had noted that across the globe, every third patent in the field of electric mobility is registered by German companies. This impressive fact reaffirms that there is controversy over the details, but agreement concerning the goals.