All there is to know about the electric car in Germany

Published by on 05.12.2021 - 4 min

The development of the electric vehicle has been a clear trend in Germany, particularly since 2020. It is part of a wider awareness of the ecological issues related to mobility, and is a direct consequence of government incentives towards the purchase of an electric vehicle. An industrial challenge for manufacturers, this boom is accompanied by new practices among German motorists. Here’s an overview.

When did electric cars first arrive in Germany?

In the 1990s, the electric car made its great comeback in design offices and certain factories. At the time, this technology was seen as an alternative means of getting around without emitting exhaust fumes. Envisaged right from the arrival of the first cars, and tested in the 20th century, rechargeable motorization experienced an upturn thirty years ago. In 1994, on the island of Rügen, for example, battery-powered vehicles were already in circulation, foreshadowing the production models to come, as well as their potential uses — carsharing in particular.

Since then, the concept of the electric vehicle has changed a lot, to the point of industrialization on a large scale. In Europe in general, and Germany in particular, the convergence of two phenomena explains the acceleration of its development at the end of the 2000s: the maturity of lithium-ion battery technology, and the recognition of the need for a global reduction in CO2 emissions.

The market started to emerge in Germany back in 2009. The government then announced its wish to see a million electric cars on German roads by 2020. Even though this type of motorization remained limited in the early 2010s, European constructors, equipment manufacturers and energy suppliers have all advanced together.

Increasingly efficient vehicle models have emerged as a result; adapted to a charging network that is expanding from year to year. It is in this context, for example, that Renault ZOE was first distributed in 2013, gradually gaining more and more fans: 10,000 were sold in Europe in 2014, four times this in 2019, and ten times more in 2020!

In 2016, the vast German plan for electromobility (Regierungsprogramm Elektromobilität) is driving the transition to electric energy, along with the federal states and manufacturers. Fiscal incentives and purchase subsidies for individuals, fleets and professionals have become a new tool with which to support the commercialization of electric cars.

The current development of the electric car market in Germany

In 2020, the development of the electric car market was encouraged through reinforcing purchase incentives as part of the country’s stimulus package. And the results of this policy are considerable: one in twenty cars sold nationwide in 2020 runs on electricity. With nearly 200,000 electric cars sold in Germany in 2020, the country has tripled the number of registrations in just a year.

This beneficial boom also confirms an underlying trend: more and more Germans are choosing electric cars. And this also applies to Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Registrations have been increasing consistently since 2011.

Have German drivers been won over by electric vehicles?

In 2019, 45,000 plug-in electric vehicles and 63,000 electric cars were purchased out of a total of nearly 3.5 million vehicles sold across the country. One year later, while the total number of registrations has contracted below the 3 million mark, all-electric vehicles now represent one in six new cars sold. The adoption of Renault ZOE is confirmed: one third of ZOEs sold in Europe were bought in Germany, a sign of the success that this leading model has on the national and continental markets.


The role of infrastructure in the development of electromobility in Germany

The number of non-domestic charging stations has had a real impact on the decision of drivers to go electric. It is for this reason that the government, federal states and industrial partners are carrying out installations all across the country. There are currently 30,000 electric charging stations in Germany, and 43,000 additional points are set to be installed over the next few months, especially at regular service stations. By 2030, over a million public charging stations should cover the range needs of German vehicles.

In parallel, the increased range of electric cars also facilitates their use. These days, a Renault ZOE can travel no less than 395 kilometers on a single charge*.

Germany’s place in the European mobility market

The most populous country in Europe, Germany also has the continent’s largest automotive market, with zero-emissions vehicles** increasingly popular. Since the end of 2019, the country has even overtaken Norway to occupy the top spot in electric vehicle registrations (in absolute value). Only public charging infrastructure positions it behind other countries such as France, but the authorities’ proactive approach should see that change rapidly. Lastly, Germany is among the top five nations worldwide when it comes to promoting electric mobility.


* WLTP: Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure. The standard WLTP cycle corresponds to 57% of city journeys, 25% of suburban journeys and 18% of motorway journeys.

** Neither atmospheric emissions of CO2 nor pollutants while driving (excluding wear parts).

Copyrights : eyetronic (Adobe Stock), Frithjof OHM