The electric car race is on
Car makers are racing to catch up with Tesla with new focus on developing ‘ green’ vehicles
WHILE the Beijing Auto Show last week unveiled a slew of electric cars that shows where China’s traffic is heading, Germany also saw three important developments that will take Europe closer to quietly humming roads.
In the first development, shareholders at Daimler’s annual meeting angrily demanded to know how the board planned to counter Tesla’s success in Germany.
In the second development, Volkswagen Group’s CEO Matthias Müller said the company will launch new electric vehicles and focus on car- sharing as it seeks to get past its scandal over cheating on diesel emissions tests.
And the third development was the German government’s announcement of a € 1 billion incentive scheme to subsidise the sale of electric cars and boost the number of recharging stations in the country.
Daimler aiming for Tesla
After shareholders criticised Daimler for not offering similar popular vehicles as Tesla, chairperson of Mercedes parent Daimler, Dieter Zetsche, pointed out that Elon Musk’s company is still losing money, something the shareholders will not tolerate for long.
Yet Tesla sold more electric cars in Germany last year than any other brand, selling 1 582 Model S cars in Germany in 2015. That compares with sales of 1 051 BMW i3s, 1 161 all- electric Mercedes, 676 electric Smarts and 796 electric VW Golfs.
And even Elon Musk was surprised when over 325 000 people put down a $ 1 000 deposit for its Model 3 sedan with no firm delivery date.
Zetsche said Daimler plans to counter Tesla with an all- electric car with a range of up to 500 km.
Buy electric with one click
The German government plans to subsidise sales of new electric vehicles with € 4 000 and plug- in hybrids by € 3 000, sharing this discount with car makers.
The rebate will only be availa- ble on cars costing less than € 60 000 and it began on Worker’s Day.
Sigmar Gabriel, Economics minister, said the programme is designed to boost the number of electric cars on German roads from 50 000 currently to more than 500 000, although he did not specify a date. Germany has previously announced a goal of one million electric cars on German roads by 2020.
Merc is not alone in planning for the green revolution. Green Car reports that BMW plans an extended- range electric model larger than the current i3, possibly called i5, Audi will launch an all- electric SUV in 2018, based on the e- tron quattro concept from the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, and Porsche will launch a production version of its Mission E sedan concept, also unveiled last year in Frankfurt, before 2020.
But Claudia Kemfert, head of energy, transport, and environment at the German Institute for Economic Research, warned that these car makers will have to move faster.
She said the German car makers are behind but they have the resources to quickly overtake Tesla, which must still build the factory to build those almost over 325 000 Tesla S models.
No more blowing smoke
The VW Group plans to launch over 20 new models in the next four years, most of them hybrid electric vehicles using VW’s Modular Electrification Toolkit, or MEB for short.
“We plan to make electric cars one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks,” Müller said.
The group also plans strategic investments in fields with high earning potential, which includes providing mobility as a service to cater for GenZ who don’t want to wait for the bus, but also don’t want to own their own car.
Müller said that working through the dieselgate fallout will dominate activities at Volkswagen for the rest of the year. “This will remain our most important task until the very last vehicle has been put in order,” he assured.
With the software manipulation of diesel engines at Volkswagen, rules were broken and ethical boundaries overstepped. “We sincerely regret this. Also because we know that we have disappointed many people — people who have placed their trust in Volkswagen.
“We stand by our responsibility. And we are doing everything in our power to regain trust,” Müller stressed.
Hybrid cars are nothing new. The 1896 Armstrong Phaeton is the oldest known hybrid car that predates the Lohner- Porsche by four years and the Toyota Prius by 100 years. Dutch collector Evert Louwman bought the Armstrong for $ 483 400 at Bonhams in April for display at his museum in The Hague, Netherlands.