Germany’s Economy Minister says Auto Manufacturers Need To Invest Tens Of Billions Into EVs 

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Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier was quoted in an interview published earlier this week as saying that the country’s auto manufacturers need to invest in the “two-digit billion amounts” into electric car tech, and that he wasn’t sure why there has been such a holdup to date on the matter.

The minister, Peter Altmaier, argued in the interview with Bild that the hesitation was putting the country’s auto manufacturers into a dangerous situation, and that further investments on top of those just noted would also be needed in the electric vehicle battery sector itself.

As a quick note, this all echoes comments German Chancellor Angela Merkel made last year. She noted that the German car industry had to “see the writings on the wall.” She also said, “I cannot name a specific date now, but the approach [banning ICE vehicles] is right, because if we invest more in charging infrastructure and technology for e-cars fast, a general transition will structurally be possible. … Otherwise, foreign companies will come one day and show how it’s done, how e-cars are made. I would like to avoid that.”

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel attends a news conference on the renewable energy act reform in Berlin, Germany June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Let’s jump back to Altmaier’s comments today about the auto industry’s need to get serious about investments into electric transport: “Otherwise we’ll have to accept that a large part of the added value will be produced in Asia or the United States, instead of here with us.”

Tomoto provides more: “The German car industry, which accounts for some 800,000 jobs in Europe’s biggest economy, is struggling with a global backlash against diesel cars after Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had cheated US exhaust tests. … The new German coalition government plans to ease the tax burden on drivers of electric vehicles, provide at least an additional 100,000 charge points across the country and subsidize car-sharing to push a shift to greener transportation. There are also plans to provide funding for research into autonomous driving technology and support the establishment of battery cell production in Germany.

“Altmaier said German carmakers needed to develop a model that had at least the range of a Tesla but costs less, and should work on developing an information technology platform for self-driving cars that was the best in the world.”

That bit about undercutting Tesla on pricing is interesting. Presumably, Altmaier is talking about the Tesla Model 3, the model probably posing the most danger to auto manufacturer profits in Germany, but which company would be able to manage that? I suppose Volkswagen theoretically could (presuming cheap electric vehicle batteries could be had), but will it?

On a related note, Altmaier did also argue that “the first safe self-driving cars must operate with German technology.”

The argument is being made for the same reason the ones relating to EVs were: without such a pathway, the German auto industry stands to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs in the mid and long term.

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