German manufacturers join the race for electric vehicles

The race to electrify mobility took an important step forward with a series of announcements from German carmakers on new electric cars and trucks. This coincided with a strong signal from the European Commission, through its Low-Emission Mobility Strategy, that electric vehicles, and not diesel-powered ones, have the principal role in decarbonising transport.

Dieselgate-blighted VW announced it planned to build 2 to 3 million all-electric cars a year by 2025 including 30 new e-vehicle models along with a commitment to quickly expand its new unit centering on ride hailing, carsharing and transport on-demand services. Meanwhile sister brand Audi also announced a similar target and three battery electric models by 2020, starting with the Q6 e-tron SUV in 2018 and followed by an electric compact car and a mid-range executive EV. More plug-in hybrid models are also intended in three to four years. Mercedes announced plans for four new electric models and may establish a new sub-brand for electric mobility, mimicking BMW i which currently comprises the i3 and i8 models.

T&E’s Julia Hildermeier said: ‘The sudden rush of announcements on electric vehicles shows that the German automotive industry has finally woken up to the opportunity created by the rapid improvements in battery performance and decline in prices. The decision on new purchase grants for electric cars in Germany is not a coincidence. But the staggering pre-orders of the Tesla Model 3 has also alerted the companies to the threat posed by specialist manufacturers.’

The trucking sector also joined the electric vehicle race with the opening of the first electric highway in Sweden using a Scania truck fitted with a pantograph, a system developed by Siemens. At the opening of its new Giga Factory, Tesla also announced it was developing an electric truck. Daimler also joined the race, for now with a prototype truck.

Meanwhile the rapidly growing electric bus market was illustrated by BYD’s investment in a new manufacturing plant in Hungary that will also produce cars and fork lift trucks. There were also rumours of a new battery plant being under consideration in the UK as a joint venture between Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and BMW.

Julia Hildermeier added: ‘In the Low-Emission Mobility Strategy the European Commission signalled its interest in setting targets for manufacturers around 2025 in terms of both on-road efficiency improvements and sales of ultra-low carbon vehicles. This would also drive forward the choice of electric cars and vans, which is currently lacking, and would encourage demand.’

T&E will be producing reports, to be released in October, on the progress being made towards electric vehicle market uptake in Europe and how to incentivise their supply.