The change to a life without your own car is seen as radical – also by large parts of the green movement.
Just a few days ago, I asked two green local politicians if they still owned a car. Both live with their families close to the center and have short distances, including to work. But switching to car sharing does not seem to be possible for any of them.
I do not want to go into all the explanations. I am aware of the problems because my wife and I have never owned a private car, our children had to go to doctors, schools and music lessons. The next sharing vehicle was one and a half kilometers away. Yes, it was often quite complicated. But we wanted to show that it is possible.
I’m now seriously wondering if the transportation revolution will ever happen if not even avid advocates are willing to start with themselves. I’m talking about people in urban regions whose vehicles drive just under an hour a day.
The private car is firmly rooted socially, culturally and mentally. Neither fuel prices above two euros per liter nor parking fees or the annoying search for a parking space have triggered a change in the mobility culture. The tolerance for frustration is enormous: Anyone who has a car in Germany stands in traffic jams for 120 hours a year – on average.
The Covid crisis provided only temporary relief. The outlook is still not rosy as the number of cars is constantly increasing. There are now more than 48 million cars, almost seven million more than in 2010. This is bad for the climate and strengthens our dependence on despots like Putin.
Lots of money for the car
Almost 80 percent of citizens would like to have fewer cars in their community. According to a survey from 2019, around 40 percent can imagine being able to do without their own car in the future. According to this, millions have already considered getting rid of their car.
Now the war against Ukraine is raging and the willingness to try new forms of mobility has increased markedly. But even with the current gas prices, the cost of a train ticket seems quite high.
For acquisition costs, the largest part is the intimate car. Owning the vehicle results in a financial constraint, so to speak, to use it.
Only the change from intimate car to carpool makes the costs transparent and shows how cheap cycling, bus and train are.
But so far, the federal government is apparently not interested in millions changing their habits and getting rid of the intimate car. On the contrary, it gives away billions so that people can keep their car habits.
In Germany, there is a lot of money from the state if you drive a company car, if you drive a diesel, if you buy a company vehicle or an electric car or if you commute to work. In total, the authorities support climate-damaging mobility behavior with almost 30 billion euros annually, according to the Federal Environment Agency.
This is how the abolition bonus works
If only a small part of this money were redistributed, for example four billion euros, two million people could get a bonus of 2,000 euros every year if they got rid of their car and did not buy a new one in twelve months.
If only half of the recipients of the bonus remained in mobility without their own car, after ten years there would be ten million fewer cars, but there would be more space for people, for example in the form of green areas and lounges.
is a scientific project manager at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and developed the concept for the eco-routine. Among other things, he deals with lifestyle issues. His latest book “Economy is more!” in open access format deals with new, comprehensive concepts for sustainable regional economic development.
It is easy to imagine that many people in urban areas would take such a “sale bonus” as an opportunity to postpone the planned purchase of a new car for a year. It also assumes my colleagues who research research issues at the Wuppertal Institute.
Experience has shown that one year should be enough to establish new routines. This innovative form of bonus can trigger the change in the mobility culture.
The federal government pays, the cities can increase the bonus with their own “incentives”: for example, through a cheap ticket for local transport, a subsidy for an electric bike or cargo bike and – very importantly – special offers for carpooling. For the conversion is easier if there is a common car in the immediate vicinity.
It would also be conceivable to offer the use of local transport in a federal state for 365 euros a year after the end of the year.
Examples are encouraging
Practical examples show that such a program basically works. In Denzlingen near Freiburg, everyone who got rid of their car received a bonus of 500 euros. At least 15 households shut down their cars during this first attempt and undertook not to buy a new one in three years. The prize was earmarked for an annual ticket to, for example, local public transport.
An initiative in Berlin is involved in the Freie Strasse bonus. Those who clear their car should receive 1,100 euros per year and 550 euros for the children.
With 2,500 euros, you can soon get a purchase of an electric bike subsidized in France – but only if you get rid of your car. The existing scrapping premium has been extended to include a bonus for electric bicycles.
Finland has a “Cash for Clunkers” program. Everyone who gives up their old car – klunker is English for rattle box -, gets 1,000 euros, which can be used for an e-bike or public transport tickets.
However, one may ask whether it is appropriate to throw even more money at car owners. Anyone who has never owned a car or has already switched to carpooling before gets nothing.
That’s true, it’s unfair – but inevitable when creating incentives. Politics focuses on the future. Even those who had children before the parental benefit was introduced received nothing. And just after buying an electric car or solar system, there can be significantly more financing. It does not work without clearly defined key dates and reference limits.
Switching to e-mobility is not enough
The federal government is not talking about it, but in order to achieve the climate goals, the number of cars must also be reduced, especially in cities, as many rural areas will also be dependent on cars in the long term.
For green electricity is expensive. In the future, it will not only be used to drive vehicles but also to heat rooms and – mostly in the form of hydrogen – to run steel mills or chemical plants and move aircraft and ships.
Different climate protection scenarios therefore assume that passenger cars need to fall by 30 to 50 percent to 25 to 35 million. The ownership rate is now over 550 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, the Federal Environment Agency has proposed 150 cars as a target value for large cities.
Over the past ten years, the federal government’s climate policy in the transportation sector has completely failed. Emissions today are almost at the same level as in 1990. A reduction of 40 percent by 2030 is actually planned.
In connection with the announced investments in sustainable infrastructure, an abolition award such as a financing policy innovation can be the beginning of a change in our mobility culture, a mental transformation. So that we young people do not steal the future.
Incidentally, the idea of an abolition premium came to me in a conversation with a representative of the automotive industry. On a train journey together, I asked him just before Hanover: “Why do you take the train, even with a Bahncard 100?” The carman’s response was surprising.
“A few years ago I broke my foot. The fracture and the operation were complicated. Immediately after the accident, the surgeon said that I probably would not be able to drive a car for a year. It was quite a shock for me. And after a while I was Of course I can also take the train.
When the Bahncard expired after a year, I could no longer imagine driving the car. When I get home now, the reports are written, the lists are ready and I am usually free from work. I used to sit at my desk for hours. That’s why it’s not so bad for me if the train is delayed. “