Germany sets up new agency to boost electric cars development

Bringing researchers and industry experts together

The German government set up a new agency yesterday to push the pace of electric car development after the auto industry missed out on chances to exploit its early breakthroughs with hybrid technology.

Annette Schavan, minister for research and education, said the agency would coordinate the efforts of 30 different research institutes and be funded with €44 million from the government's €81 billion stimulus package.

Last month the German government set aside €500 million of funding for the construction of electric charging stations and programmes to boost battery technology in Europe's biggest car market.

"The new agency will bring together representatives from politics, economics and industry so they can agree on joint strategies for electro-mobility," Ms Schavan told a news conference.

The government, which has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels, hopes to see one million electric cars on the road by 2020 at the latest.

Ms Schavan said the development of the electric-powered car was vital to secure Germany's reputation for auto manufacturing worldwide in the future.

German carmakers were among the first to develop hybrid engines but decided to concentrate their efforts to reduce emissions on diesel engines instead. In the face of growing concerns about climate change, they have shifted gears again.

The new agency will coordinate the work of researchers and industry experts. They will also study energy storage, the set-up of a new charging station infrastructure and ways to increase public awareness of electric cars.

Even though there has been criticism of the project as an election-year gimmick, the director of research at Mercedes parent Daimler AG, Thomas Weber, said research into key technologies was vital for the German car industry to stay ahead of its competitors.

"The electric car has enormous potential," Mr Weber told the news conference. "We cannot stand still and watch as other countries get ahead of us."

The drive towards greater fuel economy and cleaner emissions has gained pace since the European Union struck a provisional deal last year to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars, setting a 130 g/km target in a phased approach starting in 2012.

Daimler and utility RWE will start field-testing electric cars in Berlin later this year with a programme called "e-mobility Berlin".


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