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Germany to spend billions incentivizing electric car expansion

Germany hasn't done much in the way of policies supporting electric cars in the past, but new plans are underway to aggressively change that.

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/File
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany (January 12, 2016). Gabriel wants to commit 2 billion euros ($2.17 billion) to programs that would incentivize electric cars.

Among European nations, Germany is one of the least active when it comes to policies promoting electric cars.

Even as the country's powerful auto industry has turned more attention to plug-in cars, government support for them has been largely limited to political speeches.

But now German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel apparently wants to put the government's money where its mouth is.

Gabriel wants to commit 2 billion euros ($2.17 billion) to programs that incentivize electric cars, according to a report in the German newspaper Die Zeit translated by Reuters.

Some of the money would reportedly go to subsidies for the purchase of new electric cars, but no other details were given.

The proposal also calls for expanding the number of public charging stations in Germany, and encouraging government offices to use more electric cars.

Germany currently has 2,400 operational AC charging sites, and around 100 DC fast-charging sites.

This will be funded under the current German budget without tax increases Gabriel said.

Electric-car incentives have been discussed in Germany before, but so far those discussions haven't translated into much tangible action.

In late 2014, Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed adding tax incentives and cash rebates like those available in other countries, as a way to boost electric-car sales.

That same year, legislation was introduced to give electric-car drivers free parking and access to bus lanes.

All of these measures have been intended to help Germany meet a goal of putting 1 million plug-in cars on its roads by 2020.

To do that, sales will have expand far beyond the roughly 20,000 units recorded in 2014.

Calls for greater emphasis on electric cars intensified with the eruption of the Volkswagen diesel scandal last year. Gabriel--the Economy Minister--and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks both called for an electric-car quota.

If nothing else, the German car industry--particularly the now-humbled Volkswagen Group--is starting to plan more battery-electric models.

Audi will launch and all-electric SUV in 2018, and Porsche has promised to put the Mission E electric-car concept first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show into production before the end of the decade.

VW has said it will build an all-electric version of its Phaeton luxury sedan, and is developing a new platform for compact electric cars.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.

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