Merkel sticks to electric cars target despite setbacks

Mon May 27, 2013 11:57am EDT
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By Christiaan Hetzner and Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed her target to bring one million electric cars on to German roads by the end of the decade, despite evidence of dwindling consumer interest.

"You have a chancellor who believes in electromobility," she told a conference to promote electric car technology, less than 24 hours after the collapse of an Israeli electric car company.

Fewer than 3,000 electric cars were sold in Germany last year out of a total market that exceeded 3 million.

The German auto industry plans to invest roughly 12 billion euros ($15.5 billion) in the next three to four years in alternative powertrains, including battery-powered electric cars, according to the president of industry association VDA.

"Driving electrically is no vision anymore, it's a reality," said VDA's Matthias Wissmann.

Yet economy Minister Philipp Roesler refused to adopt the approach of China, France and the United States, which subsidize purchases of electric cars to boost demand.

Once hyped as a technology that would crowd out conventionally-powered cars, electric auto sales have flopped due to high costs and range limitations.

A survey by Germany's motoring club ADAC said drivers are much more skeptical about the technology than two years ago and nearly half are unwilling to pay extra for an electric car.   Continued...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R), Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer (R, back) and CEO of German carmaker Daimler Dieter Zetsche look at a Mercedes electric automobile at the Electric Mobility Conference of the German government in Berlin May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter