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What are the advantages of electric vehicles in cities?


Parkschild für Elektroautos an öffentlicher Ladesäule

Some cities and municipalities grant electric drivers advantages in the use of their traffic areas. Some cities set up special lanes or allow free parking. The legal basis for these privileges is regulated by the Electromobility Act (EmoG) of 12 June 2016, which allows municipalities to create privileges for electric vehicles and sets the direction. This is intended to give the population an incentive to purchase electric vehicles. But are the cities really implementing these benefits? We take a closer look to the advantages of electric vehicles.


The Electric Mobility Act (EmoG) creates advantages for electric vehicles

Drivers of e-vehicles are to receive advantages to make the switch more attractive. Electric vehicles of class M1 (passenger car) and N1 (commercial vehicle up to 3.5 t) are taken into account, provided they can be driven in Germany with a B driving licence. The EmoG entitles municipalities to take measures to give priority to marked electric vehicles in road traffic. According to § 3 para. 4 nos. 1-4 EmoG, these privileges are as follows:

  • the parking on public roads or paths,

  • the use of public roads or paths dedicated to special purposes (special lanes),

  • the authorisation of exceptions to access restrictions or prohibitions of passage, and

  • the (partial) waiving of fees for public parking management.

Priority is given to the creation of preferential parking rights at e-charging stations. The EmoG was further supplemented by the subsidies introduced in 2016 for the purchase of electric cars and plug-in hybrids and the exemption from vehicle tax until the end of 2030, provided the vehicle was or will be registered between 18 May 2011 and 31 December 2025. In order to implement and control the special rules for electrically powered vehicles, e-cars are specially marked. They receive a number plate with the additional letter "E".


E-Kennzeichen Nahaufnahme


What has emerged? A patchwork of privileges!

The implementation of the cities varies greatly. With the EmoG, the municipalities have been given a leeway to be shaped individually, and they are using it. In an interim report from December 2021, 11 % of the 631 municipalities surveyed stated that electromobility was a very high priority. Almost half of the municipalities are currently implementing at least one component of the Electromobility Act. The majority of the municipalities concerned are setting up preferential parking rights for electric vehicles, mostly at charging stations (74 %). A reduction of parking fees for e-vehicles is admitted by 24 %. The release of special lanes or the granting of exceptions to access restrictions or prohibitions of through-traffic only takes place in six and seven municipalities respectively.

Each municipality is not only completely free to decide which measures it deems appropriate and correct, but can also impose time limits on them or revoke them at any time. Above all, there is a fear of negative financial effects that could arise from additional signposting or increased control efforts.


What applies where?

The first cities in Lower Saxony are withdrawing offers of free parking for electric cars. This was the result of a survey conducted by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur among several larger cities.


Recently, the city of Göttingen decided that from 1 July 2023, e-cars will also have to pay parking fees in public parking spaces in the city. In Nordhorn, free parking has been history since the beginning of February, in Braunschweig since the beginning of the year. The incentive is simply no longer necessary, according to the city of Braunschweig, where free parking was introduced in 2014.


Hannover, on the other hand, allows e-car drivers to park free of charge until the end of 2026. The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg has also taken advantage of a legal option that has been in place since 1 November 2015. There, vehicles with e-plates may park free of charge in the area of parking ticket machines up to the respective maximum parking time.

Electric vehicles can park for two hours free of charge in all areas managed by the city of Munich.


In Dortmund, e-cars with e-licence plates can park for free for an unlimited time in appropriately signposted public parking spaces. Until February 2023, electric vehicles could park free of charge in all parking spaces with parking ticket machines in Düsseldorf for the respective maximum parking period. Before parking free of charge, vehicle owners had to register once by e-mail with the environmental office. The privilege was overturned by the city council on 2 February 2023 with immediate effect.


However, the city offers environmental lanes. The special lanes may be used by buses, bicycles, taxis and electrically powered vehicles. Such environmental lanes also exist in Essen, Dortmund and Karlsruhe.


Berlin: Here, e-cars are only allowed to park free of charge at charging stations if they are being charged at the same time. However, the city is planning new incentives, such as parking vignettes for cars with e-licence plates.

In Stuttgart, battery vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles were allowed to park free of charge on public streets and squares until 31.12.2022. However, this privilege was abolished again at the beginning of 2023.


Some cities such as Cologne or Bonn limit free parking for e-cars during charging to a certain number of hours. This varies in length depending on the location. After that, blocking fees apply.


In many cities, there are now access restrictions in the inner city area, but some municipalities also consider corresponding exceptions for electric cars. New concepts are currently being developed in many places.


Elektrotaxi in London


And what are the benefits for electric vehicles in other European cities?

Other countries also offer privileges to users of e-vehicles, but again there are differences. The separate registration plate for electric vehicles is now used in the countries of Austria, Norway and Great Britain for preferential treatment. However, unlike in Germany, PHEVs do not receive an e-licence plate in these countries and are therefore not given preferential treatment for certain aspects of e-mobility.


Austria

In our neighbouring country Austria, hybrid vehicles do not receive any advantages. Purely electric vehicles are exempt from both the standard consumption tax (NOVA, due when a vehicle is first registered) and the motor-related insurance tax.

Advantages:

  • e-licence plate not for PHEV

  • Reduced toll for zero-emission vehicles

  • Speed limits of 100 km/h on some motorway sections due to air pollution control measures do not apply to zero-emission vehicles

  • "Right to Plug" for homeowners


Great Britain

In the UK, there is an electric vehicle subsidy for the following vehicle categories: e-cars, e-motorcycles and e-mopeds, e-commercial vehicles, electric taxis and e-trucks (between 3.5 t and 12 t)

Advantages:

  • Congestion charge exemption for BEVs in London only.

  • Extension of Clean Air Zones

  • Introduction of an e-licence plate


Norway

Norway is still considered the pioneering country for electric mobility in Europe. Here, approx. 64 % of newly registered vehicles are pure BEVs. Pure diesel and petrol vehicles together account for only 6 % (as of September 2021). Due to this high penetration of electromobility, privileges are slowly being withdrawn.

Advantages:

  • VAT exemption for BEVs and FCEVs

  • No privileges for PHEV


Netherlands

In the Netherlands, there are currently no privileges for electric vehicles comparable to the German electromobility law: for example, free parking has led to increased parking pressure and a violation of the principle of equality and has been abolished again in Amsterdam, among other places.

Advantages:

  • Subsidies for used electric vehicles

  • Investments in electric mobility can be partially deducted from corporate and personal income taxes

  • Reduction of energy tax for public charging infrastructure

  • Application portal for public charging infrastructure

  • Zero emission zones for urban distribution transport

Information on other European countries can be found at the European Consumer Centre Germany.


Parkendes Auto an öffentlicher Ladesäule mit Beschilderung, in Hintergrund rotes Backsteinhaus

Conclusion: confusion reigns!

The benefits for drivers of electric vehicles have so far been confusing and inconsistently regulated throughout Germany. There is no central source of information. The possibilities are not being exploited enough by the cities. Concepts for restructuring urban traffic flow often fail in the test phase. There is a lack of empirical values.

According to § 8 para. 2 EmoG, the EmoG is to expire at the end of 2026. However, it will probably be extended until 30 June 2030 as part of the Climate Protection Programme 2030. By then, electrically powered vehicles should have established themselves in the market.

The expansion of a nationwide charging infrastructure is the basic prerequisite for the acceptance and increase of electromobility. To achieve the goals, one million public charging points should be available in 2030 and a nationwide network of fast charging points should be established at 1,000 locations throughout Germany. It is to be hoped that after the current teething troubles, electromobility will get rolling.

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