German Government’s plans for a National Hydrogen Strategy go in the right direction, but are not ambitious enough. Renewable fuels can usefully complement electric mobility and ensure an improved climate footprint in the existing fleet
The German automotive industry is committed to the Paris climate action goals for 2050. “However, our common target of making transport climate-neutral by 2050 can be reached only if, in addition to electric mobility running on green electricity, the transport sector also uses sustainable, renewable fuels such as hydrogen, e-fuels produced using renewable energy, and advanced biofuels,” said Hildegard Müller, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Furthermore, in 2030 and the years that follow, a large proportion of vehicles will still be powered by internal combustion engines.
The ambitious interim targets for 2030 already assume that electric mobility will be ramped-up quickly. The EU’s fleet targets for CO2 emissions are the strictest anywhere in the world. “The German automotive industry is focusing on electric mobility to satisfy the targets, and will put seven to 10.5 million electric vehicles on the roads in Germany by 2030. Ambitious action is needed, in particular to establish the charging pillar infrastructure,” Hildegard Müller explained.
The VDA is working to accelerate the ramp-up of electric mobility. The policymakers and the relevant sectors have the tasks of working together on rapidly mainstreaming electric mobility – and of paving the way now so that sustainable, renewable fuels will be available in good time.
This will require the swift construction of production sites for hydrogen and e-fuels. “The preparations outlined in the National Hydrogen Strategy currently being discussed by the German Government represent a first step in the right direction. But the draft does not yet go far enough,” according to Hildegard Müller. “It lacks specific measures showing how renewable fuels could be rapidly introduced in the quantities necessary. The VDA has elaborated specific proposals for this.”
Most importantly, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) with its aim of increasing the share of renewable energy should be implemented as ambitiously as possible. The VDA proposes a renewable fuel quota of 23 percent by 2030 in order to achieve the market shares for renewable fuels that will be necessary for climate protection. In addition, a minimum quota of five percent should be introduced for hydrogen and e-fuels. Super credits should be abolished on items such as electricity used for charging.
To help renewable fuels achieve a breakthrough, the VDA is also calling for a limited-term market introduction program to enable the first systems to work economically. Furthermore, under the EU Directive, hydrogen and e-fuels should be completely exempt from energy tax, and the taxes and levies on electricity should be greatly reduced.
The use of hydrogen and renewable fuels can usefully complement electric mobility in certain areas. If synthetic fuels were produced globally, the availability of renewable energy would not be a limiting factor.
Moreover, such fuels are the only means of bringing down CO2 output from the current vehicle fleet and thus swiftly and effectively contributing to climate protection. Restricting the use of renewable fuels to individual sectors such as aviation therefore increases the risk of not achieving the climate targets.