Germany ploughs an extra ?500 million into electric vehicle R&D in a bid to have a million electric cars on the road by 2020

Ned Stafford/Hamburg, Germany

Germany’s Federal Cabinet has allocated an additional €500 million (?439 million) for research and development of electric vehicles and related infrastructure, with the goal of having a million electric cars humming on the nation’s streets and autobahns by 2020.

Christian Herbst, spokesman for the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), told Chemistry World that a large portion of the money will go toward battery research. ’The battery is the backbone of all this,’ he says. ’Batteries must be smaller, stronger, longer lasting, cheaper and more reliable.’

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Germany plans to have a million electric cars on its roads by 2020

The funding, to be spent over the next three years, is part of a second stimulus package to re-energise Germany’s economy. The money is therefore aimed at helping German firms such as Volkswagen and Daimler compete against US and Japanese companies trying to gain footholds in the slowly emerging electric vehicle market.

In addition to the Research Ministry, funding will also go to the federal ministries of economics, transport, and the environment, which will focus on safety, environmental and infrastructure issues. The €500 million comes on top of €200 million in federal funds allocated to the Research Ministry in 2005 for programmes running until 2013, but precisely how the new money will be spent is yet to be fully detailed.

Of the total €700 million, some €200 million is going to the Research Ministry, which will devote around €170 million towards battery research and €30 million toward vehicle system research, says Herbst.

Some €59 million of the Research Ministry’s new money is going towards the so-called Lithium Ion Battery 2015 (LIB2015) innovation alliance, already in operation in the eastern German city of Kamenz. The alliance, also supported by €360 million from industry, includes the firm Li-Tec, a joint venture between Daimler and Evonik Industries, and heavyweights such as Bosch, BASF and Volkswagen. Materials technologies and chemistry researchers from the  J?lich Research Centre  also are involved.

Around €19 million is going toward battery research at the Electrochemistry Competence Network South, coordinated by a new materials science centre at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and a further €11 million has been allocated for a second battery research network coordinated by the J?lich Research Centre.

Some observers have criticised the electric vehicle plan as weak, saying Germany needs to spend more money and aim higher than just a million vehicles by 2020. But Herbst says it is too early to be spending billions: ’We think compared to what has come before, this is very ambitious planning,’ he says.