Eleven million electric cars are expected to be driving on Germany’s roads by 2030. Each additional vehicle makes us less dependent on oil, but also on natural gas and nuclear power. The revolution on the road will inevitably make solar and wind power the dominant power source.

In 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent for the first car with a combustion engine. To this day, he is considered the inventor of the car. But that such a car had to be powered by petrol was unusual even in the 19th century. Five years before Benz, 200 kilometers from his place of work in Mannheim, the first electric cars were driving through the town of Coburg – at that time more like carriages. At the turn of the century 14 years later, electric cars had a significantly higher market share in the USA with 38 percent than gasoline-powered vehicles with 22 percent. Only around 1910 did the tide turn.

Today we are doing the opposite trend. The market shares of electric cars are still very low. Around 1.4 percent of all cars on the road worldwide are electrically powered. In Germany it is 2.5 percent. With political support, the proportion is expected to rise significantly. According to the latest estimates, around 11 million electric cars could be on the road in Germany by 2030. That would be about 20 percent of all cars.

Climate protection is the main argument for change. An electric motor does not emit any harmful exhaust gases, above all carbon dioxide (CO2), like a combustion engine that is powered by petrol or diesel. The fact that the oil industry will become less important in the long term is now an accepted fact, especially among the oil companies. European corporations in particular, such as Shell and Total, are now doing without the expensive development of new oil fields and are investing more money in renewable energies. In the long term, they argue, more money can be made with it.

In fact, there is much to suggest that with every electric car sold, the share of renewable energies in the German and global energy mix will increase. This is for purely economic reasons. The logic is as follows: In principle, there is only one source of energy for cars with combustion engines: oil. It does not matter whether this is previously processed into petrol or diesel. Electric cars, on the other hand, are powered by electricity, which in turn can be obtained from many sources: oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear power, wind, solar energy, biomass and hydroelectric power are the most important.

In the end, it doesn’t matter to the consumer which of these sources the electricity used to charge his electric car comes from. For the corporations that generate the electricity, however, this plays a role, because they want to earn as much money as possible. Different power sources compete against each other all over the world. The cheaper electricity can be generated, the higher the margin on sale and the more customers can be lured away from other electricity suppliers with cheaper prices.

Renewable energies have great advantages. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute, a kilowatt hour from photovoltaics in large systems only cost between 3.12 and 5.7 cents last year. In the case of wind energy, the costs range from 6 cents for plants on land to 10 cents for plants at sea. All other types of generation are significantly more expensive. Lignite costs 12.9 cents, hard coal 15.5 cents and natural gas 20 cents. At 13 cents per kWh, nuclear power is also significantly more expensive than wind and solar.

The high costs for coal and gas-fired power plants are of course also based on the raw material costs, which have already increased significantly in 2021. But even if these fall in the long term, generation costs will remain high. In addition to the pure electricity production costs, as the production costs are technically called, there are also follow-up costs. These are the costs, for example, for damage to the environment, climate and health caused by various power sources.

According to an evaluation also published by the Fraunhofer Institute in 2018, they are significantly higher for non-renewable energies. While wind power plants only cause follow-up costs of 0.3 cents per KWh and solar systems are a modest 1.3 cents per KWh, natural gas costs 8.6 cents, coal 19 to 21 cents and nuclear power also 21 cents per KWh. Electricity producers will actually have to bear these follow-up costs more and more in the future. The constantly increasing Co2 tax is intended to reflect exactly this. So far, operators of nuclear power plants have not been asked to pay for their follow-up costs. These include, for example, the safe disposal of fuel rods, which has not yet been clarified, but which will in any case be exorbitantly expensive.

So the following applies: the more products are operated electrically, the more the favorable generation methods solar and wind will prevail. The transport sector plays a major role in this. According to the Federal Environment Agency, in 2020 it consumed around 27 percent of all energy in the country. That is about as much as industry and households consume.

With a share of renewable energies of around 50 percent in the electricity generated, Germany is already at the forefront worldwide, but is still lagging behind its own expansion targets. In 2030, the proportion is expected to rise to 80 percent. Only around 28 percent of all electricity worldwide is currently generated from renewable energies. The share stagnated in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Incidentally, the front runner is Norway, which exports a lot of oil and gas, but obtains 99 percent of its own electricity from wind, solar and hydropower. The proportion of electric cars here is also the highest in the world: an estimated 60 percent of all cars here are purely electric, and another 30 percent are hybrids with electric and combustion engines.

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