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Germany and the Car: If They Invented it, Can They Kill it?

UPDATE 10/12: The German Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt has declared such a resolution prompt and impractical, signifying he may not allow it. This shows that the resolution was not as accepted as presumed, or as effective as the desired. Read below for original story.

There are some assumptions about Germans that I make now after my college German courses: they are direct, punctual, and most of all, the rules are the rules. While—at least in my experience—those assumptions hold true, other seemingly obvious ones may be entirely wrong. Considering the auto industry present in Germany, their legacy of inventing the automobile, and the reputation of a love for speed on their Autobahns, it may be assumed that they are thoroughly invested in internal combustion. The German Bundesrat voted on Friday to ban the internal combustion engine by 2030. This resolution calls for even higher action, looking towards Brussels and the European Union to take up the same call. Further independent taxation could hasten the death of the internal combustion engine.

Bundesrat Chamber

There are a few important clarifications to be made about this resolution. First and foremost is that the Bundesrat does not have the power to dictate legislation to the EU. While this legislative action would affect Germany and its sixteen states, the rest of the EU is safe. Saying that, this perceived safety from legislation may be more theoretical then practical. Often the leading influence in the EU is the Germans and their legislation at home. Coming from the United States, another assumption I would feel comfortable making is that a ‘green’ or more liberal political party led the way towards passing such a resolution. This is not the case, with voting be a mostly bipartisan affair.

Even with widespread acceptance, it might be hard to see what prompted what appears to be drastic action to our eyes. The fossil fuel situation is very different in Germany, with a gallon of gas costing $5.57 in Frankfurt, Germany and diesel costing $4.66 a gallon (Numbers obtained by CNN). According to AAA gasoline is averaging at $2.25 a gallon in America with diesel at $2.39. With such high prices, efficiency is much more important, and as such efficient diesel offerings are more prevalent and accepted. Even so, privately-owned transport is not as an affordable option as it is in America. Diesel also took its own hit in Germany with the Volkswagen diesel scandal affecting sales throughout the world, as well as Germany.

Volkswagen Golf Launch Protest in BerlinProtest bei der Golf VII Praesentation
Volkswagen has made some enemies

On top of exorbitant fuel prices, the diesel situation is vastly different than in the United States. Sulfur contents vary between European fuel and American market diesel, with the EPA coming through and ours being slightly ‘cleaner’. We also require Urea devices on our diesel exhaust to bring down harmful emissions—something European market cars for-go. The lack of such a device proved baffling on Volkswagen’s for years, with the less-than-honest reason only recently coming to light. Both of these omissions on emissions protection lead to unsavory smells as diesel vehicles drive by, and cities suffer as a result.

Whole Cities Full

When the state of the air in Germany is taken into consideration with the fuel costs, as well as the general health of our planet, it becomes a little clearer why the Bundesrat made the declaration they did. Rather than signal the death of the internal combustion engine, I believe that Germany is instead attempting to lead the way for electric cars, just as they did for ICE’s. On top of that, enthusiasts will still have a vast catalog of cars to call upon, with any car sold before 2030 being exempt from the ban. The intent of the bill is to replace these gasoline and diesel-powered cars with electric vehicles. While all proposed legislation is subject to change, what this means for Germans is potential cleaner air, more affordable transportation, and for the enthusiast, a slightly clearer conscious.

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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