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Old rust buckets on German roads

The German vehicle fleet is getting older and older. On average, the vehicles in this country are 9.6 years old. The perfect starting point for the conversion to electric - if the right incentives are created.

The Duisburg CAR Institute has calculated the average age of German cars from the year 2020. The result shows that cars in Germany have not been as old as they are today since the fall of communism. The average age is 9.6 years. In other countries such as Belgium, France, Italy and Great Britain, the cars are significantly younger. Only in Eastern Europe are some of the cars even older, so that the EU average is 10.8 years. About a quarter of German vehicles are still more than 5 years old, a tenth of vehicles are more than 20 years old and every 50th vehicle is more than 30 years old and thus has classic car status if the vehicle is in its original condition overall.

While one can give a plus for sustainability in terms of raw materials given the long period of use in Germany, the outdated cars are of course mostly not very climate and environmentally friendly, as they have poor emission standards and emit harmful exhaust gases and a lot of CO2. But the old cars that we and the other Western nations hand in are mostly not scrapped and recycled, but shipped to Eastern Europe and Africa, where they are then driven for many more years. While the cars then become cleaner here, the problem of environmental pollution is mostly only postponed.

But why are cars in Germany getting older and older? The trend in vehicle age coincides with the lack of political pressure on consumers. In many European countries, the environmental zones are now so strict that old cars are often no longer allowed to enter. In Paris, no diesel vehicles are to enter at all within less than 3 years. In Antwerp, Belgium, diesel vehicles with Euro standard 4 are banned. In addition, there is a timetable there, as in many other countries, which determines when the next Euro standards will be banned. Consumers know that after a certain date, things will get tight for older combustion engines. Petrol cars are also slowly running out of steam there. In Paris, only Euro standard 1 is currently banned, but this will change in the near future. In Barcelona, for example, petrol cars with Euro standards 0 to 2 are no longer allowed.

In Germany, except for a few diesel driving bans, the rules from about 15 years ago still apply. For petrol cars, there are really hardly any restrictions. Even a Euro 1, i.e. a vehicle registered in 1993, can enter the environmental zones. Diesels may be about 15 years old with Euro standard 4, or they must have a particle filter. In that case, they may be even older.

According to study director Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, the age of the vehicles could be a good starting point to quickly switch to electric cars now. However, there must be the right incentives from politics. Subsidies for the purchase alone are not enough. Instead, tax breaks, as is common in other countries, must also support buyers. Whether it is value-added tax or vehicle tax, more incentives must be created to quickly switch to electric vehicles and to renew the vehicle fleet.