Car of the future must be climate neutral 'smartphone on wheels' – German President

Automotive Industry

Source: Clean Energy Wire, 2021-02-12

To reach Germany’s climate goals the car industry needs to undergo a significant transformation, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a summit titled "Industry and climate action using the example of the automotive industry" that he organised in Berlin. On 11 February, the President invited figures from German industry and research to discuss the sustainable mobility transformation and its social and economic consequences. The car of the future must not only be climate-neutral, it also needs to employ smart technology to adapt to people’s needs, becoming a sort of "smartphone on wheels,” Steinmeier said. Research and development will have to remain a high priority for Germany as an industrial location in the coming years, the President added.

However, a structural transformation also poses the risk of job losses. There are supplier companies cutting old jobs in Germany and building up new ones abroad, Jörg Hofmann, Chairman of the Metalworkers' Union (IG Metall) said at the event. He argued there is a "lack of action," for example in the development of the charging infrastructure, despite the invocation of climate-neutral drives, Süddeutsche Zeitung writes. Ottmar Edenhofer, Head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), underlined that technical change, as necessary as it is, could lead to job losses. “Low-income households must therefore be taken care of in this transformation,” he said. Climate protection should not divide society into winners and losers, Siegfried Russwurm, Head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) said. "In Germany, too, there are yellow vests in every car,” Russwurm said, alluding to the yellow-vest movement in France of people who feel left behind by climate policy that shows little consideration for low-income earners.

The German car industry has committed to climate-neutral mobility by 2050, but some companies reject a sole focus on electric mobility and argue that a combination of efficient combustion engines and synthetic fuels are also key to achieving climate targets. The take-up of electric vehicles has been slow in Germany in comparison to many other markets, but in 2020 the number of newly registered e-cars rose significantly. While the country's major carmakers focus heavily on electric mobility, its large supplier industry often pursues alternative technologies, especially hydrogen fuel cells and synthetic fuels made on the basis of renewable hydrogen.

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