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Great news for our environment: the number of new electric cars registered in Germany hit a record high in March 2020, despite widespread business closures and economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While overall registrations of new passenger cars dropped by 38% from the same month of the previous year, registrations of full electric cars rose 53%, accounting for 4.8% of all new registrations. Plug-in hybrids rose by an astonishing 208%, making up 4.4% of new registrations. In March 2019, these vehicles represented only 1.9% and 0.9% of new registrations, respectively. What could have caused such a jump?

Environmental bonus for electric cars doubled

One of the most obvious reasons is Germany’s generous increase in subsidies for electric cars. As of February, the existing subsidy program was greatly expanded including doubling the amount of the subsidy for registrations beginning on November 4, 2019. Purchasers of new full electric cars can receive up to a €6000 refund, while plug-in hybrids qualify for up to €4500. The program covers private individuals as well as companies and non-governmental organizations, and was extended to cover certain used car purchases as well. Clearly, car buyers have taken notice; in March alone a record 12,365 applications for the environmental bonus subsidy were submitted – more than twice the monthly average in the previous year.

E-Auto beim Aufladen

More choice and easier charging

However, financial incentives are not by themselves responsible for the increased interest in electric cars. Buyers are facing increasing choice. In just a few years the market has gone from a small handful of options to roughly 60 models of full electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles available on the German market today; by 2023 car manufacturers plan to increase that to 150 models. While the first electric vehicles were typically compact or sub-compact, newer models include larger vehicles, SUVs and full-sized vans. Manufacturers now range from budget-conscious Renault and Nissan to Mercedes, Audi and BMW. Models are also available with greater range, addressing one of the major objections to e-mobility. While there is not yet an electric vehicle for absolutely everyone, the widening variety has attracted a broader audience.

Another key factor is the expansion of charging stations. At first charging was a serious chicken-and-egg problem: potential buyers avoided electrics due to fears of being stranded with a dead battery. At the same time, no one wanted to invest in charging infrastructure with such a small number of electric cars on the road. Fortunately, a number of projects driven by forward-thinking companies, national, state and local governments and numerous public-private partnerships have built up a charging infrastructure with over 20,000 public charging stations currently available in Germany, easily supporting the cars currently on the road.

An ambitious growth plan from the German government is expected to increase this to 50,000 stations in two years and to grow to a total of one million stations by 2030, enough to support ten million cars. Part of this growth is expected from automobile manufacturers and dealers as well as a number of large energy companies and public utilities. Subsidies are planned to support private businesses in offering charging stations to their customers and to ensure charging stations at all gas stations. It seems safe to say that finding a charging station is no longer a major concern for most drivers, and the situation should only improve as time goes by.

Parkplatz E-Ladestation

E-mobility for a clean future

But of course the greatest motivation for the growth of electric cars is concern for the environment. It’s clear that traditional fossil fuel vehicles represent significant contributors to climate change. Assuming the power industry continues to increase its reliance on renewable generation of electricity, electrification is the smartest and easiest way to clean up mobility.

As the barriers to ownership continue to fall away, widespread e-mobility is finally becoming reality. Be a part of the revolution!

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