The industry is switching to electric cars and continues to earn handsomely. So all good? Automotive expert Axel Friedrich says: The developments are questionable for the climate.
Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW together earned more than 40 billion euros last year, as they recently announced. But does it also make cars that adequately protect the climate? Negotiators in Brussels are currently negotiating a possible tightening of emissions standards. It’s enough? Chemist and long-time head of department at the Federal Environment Agency Axel Friedrich sees a completely different problem.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Friedrich, you have been fighting for stricter emissions standards in the auto industry for decades. Now it is foreseeable that in a few years all cars will be emission-free. Are you in the destination of your dreams?
Frederick: Unfortunately, I am seeing another trend that is causing me great concern. Batteries are getting bigger. When environmental scientists made the first comparisons between electric cars and combustion engines six years ago, they calculated a range of 250 to 300 kilometers. Even if you factor in the electricity for production and raw materials needed, it would definitely be more environmentally friendly than driving a gasoline or diesel engine. Then the industry got sidetracked. Larger batteries should allow cars to travel up to a thousand kilometers on a single charge. Manufacturing such batteries involves huge CO₂ emissions.
ZEIT ONLINE: The legislator classifies electric cars as climate neutral. Pollutant emissions are classified as zero grams.
Frederick: That’s perverted. The manufacturing phase of the e-car is crucial. Most batteries are built in China with a high proportion of coal power. I am in favor of labeling how clean the battery was actually made. A vehicle with a range of a thousand kilometers will never be carbon neutral.
ZEIT ONLINE: And the manufacturers do not care?
Frederick: Nobody wants to admit that people should be content with a maximum range of 300 kilometers if they really want to be more environmentally friendly than diesel. And it’s not just the battery: the entire car is designed for performance and high acceleration values. Everyone is based on Tesla, which has done this with its sports cars. this is fatal. Because higher performance means wider tires, stronger brakes and the entire vehicle structure for it. All this increases energy consumption. A complete mistake. But instead of politicians raising taxes on SUVs, parking lots are being expanded.
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