“Producing cars in a CO2-neutral manner is only half the battle. Cars must be used in a CO2-neutral manner as well” – with this appeal, Herbert Diess, the CEO of the Volkswagen Group, underscored his call for the environmentally conscious and sustainable generation of electricity.
The industry cannot “save the world on its own,” Diess noted. But it certainly is willing to do its part, he added. He welcomed the current societal and political discussion about environmental and sustainability issues regarding individual mobility – but he said the “debate about imposing driving bans on certain vehicles and diesel retrofitting ignores the major climate challenges we face.”
Diess supported this position by noting that Germany had much more of a CO2 problem than a nitrogen oxide problem. The CEO noted that nitrogen oxide was largely a local phenomenon while CO2 emissions posed a global challenge. He said nitrogen oxide limits were exceeded only sporadically, that is, in certain cities and individual hotspots. He also noted that steps that were taken in the past were now producing the desired result of reducing those levels. “Nitrogen oxide will be a thing of the past in the foreseeable future,” Diess wrote. CO2 emissions, however, will not be.
Primary energy sources need to be free of CO2
Diess also expressed doubts about the primary energy mix with coal in Germany: “On average, about 500 grams of CO2 are emitted for every kilowatt hour of electricity that is generated,” he said. He expressed concerns about Germany’s future direction, a development in which the country will turn its back on gasoline and diesel fuel and then rely on coal or even lignite in its energy mix. In the past, Diess has expressed similar doubts about Germany’s energy mix and argued that the country’s primary energy sources need to be free of CO2.
Germany must quickly switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in order to facilitate the breakthrough of electric cars and to help people view this transformation as a major climate-political opportunity, Diess said. Furthermore, he argued for “intense political support of e-mobility” and the “rapid development of the necessary charging infrastructure.”
“Auto agenda” – for the future viability of the automotive industry
To achieve this technological paradigm shift, the Volkswagen Group will invest about €44 billion over the next five years, make some of its production plants completely CO2 neutral and use green power for its cell production operations. “No other automaker is so energetically tackling the topic of e-mobility as Volkswagen is,” he said. Overall, Diess views the transformation to emission-free alternative drive systems as a key way to cut CO2 emissions.
At the same time, the country needs “a political and social environment that says ‘yes’ to cars and to individual mobility of the future.” He said the country lacked an “auto agenda” – a structured plan that will ensure the future viability of the automotive industry in global technological competition. “The next decade will decide the future of the German automotive industry,” Diess concluded.