Turnaround: “Mobility must be affordable and at the same time sustainable”

Even though more and more consumers are switching to bus and rail, CO2 emissions in transport have increased significantly in 2017. With a package of measures, the new government wants to ensure that the air in the cities becomes cleaner again. The mobility shift faces many challenges, according to Kirsten Lühmann, spokeswoman for the transport policy of the SPD parliamentary group.

11.5 billion people traveled by bus and train in 2017. Passenger traffic thus continues its growth course. Nevertheless, the car remains the preferred means of transport. This could change in the future, however. The Grand Coalition has set itself the goal of promoting alternative drive systems, car sharing and investing more in electromobility . In the next few years could be so fewer vehicles with gasoline or diesel drive on Germany’s roads, says Kirsten Lühmann, transport policy spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group.

She also hopes that the diesel crisis will give new impetus, “so that the time is hopefully ripe for sensible electromobility beyond the metropolises .” In an interview with finanzen.de, the transport politician explains not only which course the Federal Government has set, but also what the goals are Mobility change from the perspective of the SPD must meet.

Ms. Lühmann, what are your current topics in your constituency Celle and Uelzen in transport policy and infrastructure?

Kirsten Lühmann: Important for the Celle-Uelzen region is, inter alia, the planned closing of the gap between the Federal Highway 39 between Lüneburg and Wolfsburg with the cross-connection towards Celle. Here, as a transport politician, I bring myself continuously in order to find the most environmentally and people-friendly route.

The conflict between environmental protection and the subject of protection human beings bothers me in principle, because the latter threatens to fall by an exemplary environmental legislation of the EU instantly in the background.

Another important infrastructure project for Celle and Uelzen is the nationwide expansion of broadband networks with fiber-optic networks that are routed right to the homes. Here, the regional players took part in a joint effort in advance and set the course for future viability. Especially in our structurally weak region, this is a crucial condition for the preservation and expansion of competitiveness.

In addition to nationwide fiber-optic networks, the Union and the SPD have agreed to make significant progress in electromobility in Germany. How well are Celle and Uelzen currently positioned on this topic?

Kirsten Lühmann: In Uelzen, for example, there are charging stations at the train station and the swimming pool, and charging stations on public roads and parking garages are also available in Celle. In both places, among other things, the local energy suppliers are drivers for the successful implementation. Unfortunately, not all dealerships support the initiative.

The districts of Celle and Uelzen are a tourism region. Therefore, many offers for e-bike users are marketed via Lüneburger Heide GmbH. This is excellently accepted by the resident population and tourists.

With the agreement in the coalition agreement on an infrastructure also get old and new initiatives a boost , which finally allows a safe and sustainable use. For example, there is the Electric Office of the Hanover Metropolitan Region, which promotes the use of electric vehicles in our region, but so far has not been able to achieve the necessary success without a nationwide overall strategy. However, the diesel crisis is increasing the pressure on vehicle manufacturers and municipalities so that the time is finally finally ripe for meaningful electromobility beyond the metropolises .

According to Kraftfahrtbundesamt, at the beginning of 2017 there were only about 55,000 vehicles with electric or plug-in hybrid drive. By 2020, a million electric cars should be on German roads. What are the three steps to move electro mobility on federal level?

Kirsten Lühmann: In the coalition agreement we have agreed as an SPD with the Union on important measures to further promote electromobility. A central role is played by the charging infrastructure and the simplified payment during charging.

In addition to the ongoing investments, we intend to invest further funds in the development of a nationwide charging and tank infrastructure, thus installing at least 100,000 additional charging points by 2020. In addition, we will improve the legal conditions for user-friendly payment systems in order to finally replace the existing patchwork carpet and also to increase its attractiveness here.

In addition, we need a higher proportion of electric vehicles . Above all, we have to get them in perspective in the secondary market. So we will increase the purchase price for taxis and light commercial vehicles. In addition, we will introduce a five-year special deduction for commercial vehicle use for 50 percent wear in the year of purchase. This brings even more electric cars on the road.

Would you personally rather drive an electric car or a diesel?

Kirsten Lühmann: I drive a car with natural gas and advocate a technology- open approach . People must have the option to choose a drive according to their needs. If you often travel long distances, you may want to purchase a diesel vehicle with the latest emission control. If you usually travel shorter distances, it may well be worth a mere battery electric vehicle. The possibilities are manifold and they get even bigger when we think of fuel cell vehicles .

Diesel drivers are currently particularly interested in the impending driving bans. In your opinion, what would be the best solution to avert these and at the same time to reduce nitrogen dioxide pollution so that the limits in cities and municipalities are met?

Kirsten Lühmann: The SPD parliamentary group continues to campaign for driving bans on diesel vehicles to be averted. The best solution could be provided by carmakers themselves, taking responsibility and hardware retrofitting without putting any financial burden on vehicle owners.

Apart from that, I do not see any meaningful and balanced nationwide individual measure, with which we will comply with the EU limit in all affected cities. Rather, we must continue to rely on a set of measures as before. The most effective solutions must be implemented together with the responsible people on the ground.

In some cities, federally funded retrofitting of old diesel buses to meet the limit may be sufficient, while other cities will need other measures such as increased electrification and digitization of transport.

Will citizens still be sitting in a car with diesel or gasoline engines in 15 years or will another drive technology be the measure of all things?

Kirsten Lühmann: That’s hard to say, it depends on many factors. But there will certainly be significantly fewer vehicles with diesel or gasoline engine on the way. In certain applications, such as road haulage (trucks), the internal combustion engine may be needed even longer. Here, for example, regeneratively produced natural gas represents a useful bridge technology. Synthetic production processes also offer great opportunities for other conventional fuels as well.

Ultimately, we need a timetable for a successful turnaround that sets the possible tools for all participants. Therefore, we will set up a commission that will develop a strategy for the “Future of Affordable and Sustainable Mobility” with a reliable timetable by the beginning of 2019.

It is important that the challenges of mobility change are tackled together. Social Democrats always look at both sides of the coin: Mobility must be affordable and sustainable at the same time.