Prioritizing the Chicken or Egg? Electric Vehicle Purchase and Charging Infrastructure Subsidies in Germany
To meet current targets for greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, emissions, especially those originating from the road transport sector, need to be reduced. Plans are to achieve this goal by substituting fossil fuel vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). This article first discusses conceptually the impact of an increasing share of EVs on the electricity grid and suitable locations for charging stations with examples from a Case Study in Lower Bavaria. Secondly, the impact of purchase subsidies on EV purchases in Germany, a high-income country characterized by an important automotive industry and an increasing share of private vehicles is examined. To achieve this, yearly information on EV purchases were analyzed by applying the Synthetic Control Method. Combining data from different sources including the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, Eurostat, and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, an overall picture was developed. Results indicate a difference between private, semi-public, and public charging infrastructures. Its spatial distribution does not correspond to a specific development strategy. Moreover, EV subsidies have a limited effect in Germany when controlling for market size. Limiting the discussion to a trade-off between subsidizing infrastructures or EV purchases obviates the multidimensionality of the problem as neither of them may be sufficient to accelerate the transition per se. Furthermore, if electricity provided for EVs comes mainly from fossil carriers, the changes in the road transport sector will not yield the expected emission reductions. The transition towards renewables is directly intertwined with the effects of EVs on emission reductions in the road transport sector.