German Autobahn Might Be Saved From Speed Limits By EVs

Government / Comments

German transport minister Volker Wissing feels that the cost of gasoline and the range of EVs are already regulating the speed at which drivers operate on freeways.

Federal Transport Minister in Germany Volker Wissing has reiterated his opinion that a speed limit on autobahns is unnecessary, according to a statement he gave to the local newspaper Bild am Sonntag and reported by Automobilwoche.

"The pace is the personal responsibility of the citizens, as long as others are not endangered. The state should hold back here," said the politician. "The high energy prices are already causing many people to drive more slowly. And with e-cars, people won't drive as fast because they want to save their batteries."

The issue of a speed limit was raised as a potential means of reducing the country's energy consumption. Thanks to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the supply of oil, gas, and petroleum to European countries has been threatened, so politicians are debating numerous potential solutions to the crisis.

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This is not the first time that speed limits have been suggested for the famous German motorways. In fact, the notion has been raised numerous times in recent years, often met with similar counterarguments to those mentioned by Wissing.

In 2021, the topic of imposing limits on the autobahn came up and was resisted by the likes of Prof. Dr. Stefan Bratzel, founder of the Center of Automotive Management, which studies trends in automotive mobility. "Drivers of electric cars usually move at about 120-130 kph [75-80 mph], no faster, because otherwise, the battery range decreases considerably," said Bratzel.

Earlier than that, others have contended that German motorways "are a symbol of freedom," adding that "there are enough speed limits" on the network already.

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Another contentious topic for members of the German government is increasing the width of many of these major motorways. "If we don't want to experience similar conditions on the road as with the rails, we urgently need to take countermeasures here," said Wissing. "In Germany, not only the number of cars but also freight traffic has risen constantly over the years. However, this has not been followed up either by rail or by road."

Wissing is all for electric vehicles or using carbon-neutral fuels but says that the rate at which freight volumes, in particular, are increasing is taking a toll on the roads.

Wissing said that German autobahns had 3.7 billion gross tons of goods transported on them last year, and it's getting worse: "In 2023, there will be another 50 million tons more. Even if not everyone likes it, there will be more traffic on German roads and we have to deal with it. Otherwise, the economy will soon come to a standstill, and we will lose jobs."

Iwona Castiello d'Antonio/Unsplash

On the other side of the table, the Ministry of the Environment feels that new roads will counter the country's climate goals. But Wissing has an answer for that too.

The minister added that "driving a car means freedom, flexibility, and privacy, in rural areas and in old age also participation and self-determination," adding that citizens expect that the roads are in good condition.

Basically, Wissing argues that driving a car on a good road and doing it at the speed that makes you comfortable is part of German culture.

Germany's coalition government is likely still far from making a decision either way, so for the time being, Germans can feel free to drive their Bugatti Chiron at whatever speed they like. But it does look like the days of unfettered autobahnen are coming to a close.

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