Comment from Peter Schwerdtmann
Every second German wants to “rely on electricity” the next time they buy a car, according to the results of its survey from the energy producer E.ON Energie Deutschland. On the same day, “strategy &”, part of the American analysis and forecasting network PwC, reports: “The e-car market share in Germany doubles in the first three quarters.” Dozens of other surveys come to similar results - all reality or an attempt to shape reality? Wishful Thinking or Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?
The PwC team quotes the current figures from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). So there is no point in doubting the values, they are official. Nevertheless, they can be read differently than is usual today. For the first three quarters of this year, the KBA reports a market share for e-vehicles of 40,2 percent. If you look at the details, only 11,2 percent of these are battery-electric vehicles (BEV), 11,9 percent plug-in hybrids (PHEV), 16,6 percent are hybrid drives whose batteries cannot be charged externally. An unbiased look at the current registration statistics shows that 88 percent of all vehicles newly registered so far in 2021 have an internal combustion engine. E.ON's figures on the wishes of Germans fit this reality. According to this, 30 percent of those willing to buy want to choose a BEV, 20 percent a PHEV and only five percent a car with a simple hybrid drive. That leaves five percent for natural gas propulsion and other alternatives.
In 2030, at best 15 percent will drive battery-electric.
Conclusion: Almost half of the people surveyed by Eon also committed to the combustion engine when asked about their wishes, plus the 25 percent pseudo-electricians PHEV and Hybrid. Today around 3,5 million BEVs drive in Europe, which is around 1,4 percent of the European car fleet. In an earlier study, the PwC team assumed that the European population would decrease to around 200 million due to the success of sharing systems. If we combine this with the most positive forecasts for the BEV, then by 2030 only 15 percent of vehicles will be battery-electric at best.
Conclusion: Measured against the existing stock, the proportion of battery-electric vehicles will remain low in 2030. Statements on the climate-friendliness of battery-electric drives vary depending on the source. Some see the modern diesel on par, others see the BEV after a few thousand kilometers in carbon dioxide plus. One thing is certain: the ecological footprint is not only determined by the level of emissions in the company. It is also about the extraction of the materials for battery production, for example, the emissions from production and the effort involved in dismantling or recycling. When it comes to electric cars, the decisive factors are the battery and the composition of the charging current: water, wind, sun, coal, gas, nuclear power or crude oil. Conclusion: The effect of the BEV in our regions today is not as good as the image of the battery drive. Only regenerative energy can improve the situation - or nuclear energy. Today, the cost of a battery in a passenger car is around a third of the total price. Industry gurus like Elon Musk believe that they will be able to cut costs by a third in the future. That would have a positive effect on the prices of electric vehicles if it weren't for the raw materials market. Because there, too, the price rises as demand increases.
Change of dependence on oil to metals
The "Spiegel" (No. 44/2021) quotes: "According to calculations by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the demand for critical raw materials will quadruple worldwide by 2040, and the factor for the battery metal lithium is even 42". Conclusion: The batteries are getting better, but not cheaper. IEA boss Fatih Birol is quoted in the same issue of "Spiegel" as saying that the industrialized countries have switched their dependence on crude oil to that of metals. And that could prove to be even more serious: Indonesia and the Philippines control around 45 percent of the nickel supply, China 60 percent of the rare earths, the Congo two thirds of the cobalt production and South Africa 70 percent of the platinum market. Our companies try to regulate this with contracts that are intended to ensure delivery reliability and, at the same time, minimum requirements under labor law.
Conclusion: We are relinquishing our dependence on a few states, none of which can call themselves model democracy or acquit themselves from human rights violations. The industry invests billions in the development of the technology, the state supports the manufacturers as well as the buyers with subsidies, bonuses and incentives of all kinds. Manufacturers and energy providers build charging options for billions more, private individuals and landlords install wall boxes. In Germany, we are trying hard to gain access to the technology of autonomous driving with all kinds of resources. We develop new mobility concepts and settlement structures. We are pushing local public transport, as well as the railways. We are rebuilding the country in the hope that the BEV will also make a contribution that justifies the effort required to achieve the 1,5 degree target.
Germany in the role model
Conclusion: We experience ourselves again in the pleasant role of a role model. That releases tremendous forces. And that's good. Because when it comes to the climate, as many as possible should like to learn from us if we make the right decisions. The climate conference in Glasgow will not be able to achieve satisfaction among the youth or the activists of the older age groups by the end of the week either. They will continue to run open doors on Fridays or other occasions demanding actions that they can rarely describe in terms of content. That is their right. Those who are responsible for the strategy and its implementation have to think. You will have to think hard about how you can reduce the impact of the 1,4 billion vehicles with internal combustion engines worldwide on the climate. The battery electric car or the pseudo-electricians will not do the problem for them. Conclusion: No matter how hip and pleasant driving with battery-electric vehicles and on-site operation may be emission-free - we need a different energy for traffic than the electricity from the battery. It's about the right principle. Considerations of the degree of efficiency do not get us any further. After all, the sun does not write an electricity bill, the wind blows for free, but hopefully less often in vain in the future. (aum / Peter Schwerdtmann)
PS: The author's opinion does not correspond to ours in every detail.