How many goods circulate in Germany? The response from the Federal Statistical Office is quite strong. The total weight is 4.5 billion tonnes – 15 times the weight of the world’s population. This is becoming a problem for Germany’s increasingly stringent climate targets. Transport, so far one of the main climate polluters, is expected to cut emissions by almost half by 2030. Unlike passenger cars, however, there is often a lack of environmentally friendly alternatives in the world. the transport of goods.
The German economy suspects that this will lead to heated discussions after the federal elections at the end of September at the latest – and is now itself going on the offensive. A 48-page strategy document made available to the Süddeutsche Zeitung lists 33 “policy options for sustainable and competitive freight transport”. However, even from the perspective of the influential Federation of German Industries (BDI), the conversion will not be easy. “A climate-friendly and efficient transport sector is a colossal task for the next federal government,” says Holger Lösch, Deputy Director General of BDI.
Road traffic is at the center of the paper – it accounts for 70 percent of freight transport. From the BDI perspective, trucks could soon also be battery powered on a larger scale. But only if the government takes the necessary steps quickly. Battery-powered electric trucks are still only used in small series. But the ranges are likely to increase, BDI experts predict. This would mean that “battery-powered trucks could also be used for long-distance transport as flexibly as conventional trucks”.
Often, however, they cannot yet be charged. If only five percent of the trucks are electric, 260 locations with 630 charging points are necessary, calculates the professional association and specifies that the policies must not waste any more time from now on: it is necessary to start building “immediately”, it continues in the newspaper. In fact, even across Europe. “As truck traffic in Europe often crosses borders, infrastructure needs to be built across Europe – at least along the most important transport routes.
Not all technologies are practical
In the case of another new technology, the BDI is holding back hope. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) sees synthetic fuels, but also green hydrogen, as a solution for road traffic as well. “The increased demand for CO₂-neutral energy sources, in particular green hydrogen, threatens to exceed supply in the foreseeable future,” warns BDI Lösch’s vice president. “We need a political commitment so that green hydrogen at competitive prices is available in sufficient quantity as quickly as possible, both by domestic production and by imports,” demands the BDI. This is of fundamental importance for the future of industry, mobility, freight transport and the construction sector.
According to the BDI, the use of long trucks, which are controversial among environmentalists, a ten percent higher allowable truck weight, and the increased use of aero accessories to reduce the air resistance of conventional drives could lead to fewer emissions. The document mentions 10 to 15% less CO₂ depending on the measurement.
The document clearly targets a possible green transport minister after the elections. In addition to the reconstruction proposals, the BDI is also making it clear that the economy considers a new government’s massive road traffic loads to be dangerous. “The economy depends on road freight transport. If its efficiency were impaired, it would have a very negative impact on the competitiveness of companies in Germany and Europe, combined with a considerable loss of overall economic prosperity.
Especially since the economy is critical with regard to the development of the rail freight operator. The industry is increasingly dependent on rail transport due to increasing climate targets. But the BDI attests to the weaknesses of the system and calls for a hunt for “catching up”. The rail freight operator must increase its reliability “through massive public investment”, operate in a more flexible and, above all, more digital and automatic way.
The freight railway fleet has been growing for years
According to new figures from the federal government, the rail freight operator is still miles away from modern technology. According to a response from the Ministry of Transport to a report request from Green MP Sven-Christian Kindler, railways in Europe have a total of 78,000 freight wagons and 2,700 locomotives. But the fleet advances in years. According to information provided by the ministry, freight wagons are on average 30 years old, locomotives 28 years old and shunting locomotives even 41 years old.
The ministry estimates the investment need for digital couplers and digital train control at 1.5 billion euros. Upgrading trains for digital operation is expected to cost 500 million euros. “For the turnaround of traffic, a strong freight division of Deutsche Bahn is needed,” Kindler said. “Unfortunately, it is not DB Cargo in its current state.” One can see “the bitter legacy of twelve years of automotive policy within the CSU Department of Transport”.