German state environment ministers push for Autobahn speed limit

Environment ministers in Germany's 16 states want to see a temporary Autobahn speed limit to help cut down reliance on Russian gas.

A 130km per hour speed limit sign on Germany's Autobahn.
A 130km per hour speed limit sign on Germany's Autobahn. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

Calls have been growing for a temporary speed limit or Tempolimit on Germany’s Autobahn network to further reduce dependency on Russia’s energy amid the war on Ukraine.

But the move has seen severe pushback from some politicians – in particular the Free Democrats (FDP).

On Friday, German media site Spiegel reported that the Conference of Environment Ministers had come out in favour of a temporary speed limit on the Autobahn, which is the only stretch of motorway in Europe where people can drive as fast as they want in many sections.

It’s a significant move given that the issue is so contentious in Germany. 

Spiegel said that the ministers agreed a resolution on Friday to introduce a temporary nationwide speed limit. However, they did not specify what the maximum speed should be.

The Greens have campaigned for a number of years to impose a 130km/h (around 80 mph) limit on German motorways – but the party had to abandon this electoral promise last year during coalition negotiations to keep the freedom-loving FDP from walking.

According to environment ministers in the states, a general speed limit should be introduced as a “cost-effective, quickly to implement, and immediately effective measure” so that Germany consumes less petrol and diesel, and becomes less dependent on oil imports.

READ ALSO: Could Germany introduce an Autobahn speed limit?

At the same time, the step would help protect the climate, keep the air clean, reduce noise and make roads safer, they said. The speed limit could “initially be introduced for a limited period during the ongoing conflict”, the resolution said in reference to the war in Ukraine. In the long term, the focus is on the expansion of electric mobility and local public transport.

“I think it is absolutely right that we set a visible sign,” Lower Saxony’s environment minister Olaf Lies (SPD), chair of the conference, told Spiegel. “We did not have an ideological debate.”

Rather, he said, it was about a pragmatic response to the supply crisis because of the war.

The move was backed by all states. The environment ministers in Bavaria (Thorsten Glauber, Free Voters) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Lutz Lienenkämper, CDU) voted in favour, but issued a note stating that they only expect a speed limit to have a limited effect.

In the other 14 states, the ministries are led by the Greens or the SPD.

The federal states can’t implement the decision on their own – this would require a federal law.

“Now it’s the federal government’s turn,” tweeted Hesse environment minister Priska Hinz (Greens). 

So far, none of the states has announced an initiative in the Bundesrat, the parliament that represents the states – but they are sending a strong message to the federal government. 

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German Transport Minister wants to ‘significantly raise e-car subsidy’

Germany could be poised to increase subsidies for e-car purchases by up to €4,800, according to media reports.

German Transport Minister wants to 'significantly raise e-car subsidy'

In a government report obtained by German business newspaper Handelsblatt, experts from numerous research institutes evaluated a draft climate protection proposal from the Transport Ministry.

The proposals would extend the deadline for subsidy applications and increase the amount of money available to e-car buyers.

According to the report, Transport Minister Volker Wissing, of the Free Democrats (FDP), plans to offer the subsidies for purely electric or fuel-cell vehicles until 2027 in a multi-billion euro extension of the scheme.

People in Germany who buy a car with a maximum purchase price of €40,000 will, according to the plans, receive a subsidy of €10,800 instead of the current €6,000. In addition, the manufacturers would receive a subsidy of €3,000.

READ ALSO: E-cars and sleeper trains: How Germany’s new government will reform transport

For more expensive vehicles up to €60,000, the ministry plans to cover €8,400 of the cost price, instead of the €5,000 promised so far.

From the second half of 2023, buyers will have to scrap a combustion car that is at least 11 years old in order to still receive the full subsidy. This could account for around €1,500 of the subsidy.

Both premiums are to be reduced from 2025 and, according to the report, will cost up to €73 billion over the duration of the scheme.

In contrast to federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), Wissing wants to continue subsidising the purchase of plug-in hybrids until 2024 rather than ending it this year.

He wants to halve the subsidy to €2,250 or €1,875, depending on the purchase price of the hybrid car.

According to the coalition agreement, all purchase subsidies are supposed to end in 2025 and will be gradually reduced over time until then.

The original plans foresaw a maximum subsidy of €4,000 in 2023 and of €3,000 in 2024 and 2025.

Accordingly, only €5.9 billion has been planned for e-car subsidies in the budget.

READ ALSO: Germany to slash subsidies for electric cars