Tesla's boutique storefront on Berlin's KuDamm
It has been over 6 years since Berlin's last ambitious announcement on electric car infrastructure. As of the end of 2014, Germany offers 17 electric cars "made in Germany" from which to choose. But it seems few are choosing. Germany has 4800 charging stations, including novel concepts like installing charging in the streetlight grid (image below), but only 24,000 electric cars to use them.
Germany's National Platform for Electromobility bemoans the fact that Germany -- famous for its car culture -- now has to overtake the USA, where over a quarter million electric cars already ply the roads.Germany has other benefits that should favor electric car use. Distances are shorter than in the USA, for example. Ecological living, from separation of waste to organic foods, lies deep in Germany's national culture.
Late last year, Chancellor Merkel backed incentives to try to get Germany back on the path to a goal of 1 million electric cars by 2020. There was talk of incentives similar to those in Norway, where a Tesla owner can profit more in tax breaks than the cost of their Tesla. But a closer read of the law that actually was introduced into the legislative process suggests consumer incentives limited to parking privileges, use of bus lanes and other minor perks. Any financial incentives would go only to R&D.
Optimists thought the incentives would be law by spring of 2015. But valid questions like "should a Porsche Panamera hybrid displace people using public transportation from bus lanes?" continue to stall progress.
OK, I will admit to seeing one Tesla on the streets of Berlin since Elon Musk announced Tesla's big plans for Germany. In fact, Tesla has been a bit of a success story relative to other electric cars -- which hints at the somewhat disturbing fact that Tesla Model S owners were not thinking "Prius or Leaf or Tesla?" but "AUDI or BMW or Tesla?"
Surely the worst possible program for boosting electric car sales includes promising support for early adopters, especially rumors hinting at sweet financial packages like those in Oslo, and not delivering. But we put the BMW and Tesla salesmen on the spot this week: neither would admit to seeing any incentives on the horizon. If Germany wants to be the leading market for the cars of the future, leadership needs to pass a clear package promoting the purchase of electric cars.