Fuel economy in Germany

Part of Global Fuel Economy Initiative 2021

Market profile and analysis of fuel consumption trends

Light-duty vehicle (LDV) sales have been growing steadily in Germany, with sales reaching 3.7 million in 2019. Average LDV fuel consumption achieved an all-time low in 2016 at 5.8 litres gasoline equivalent per 100 kilometres (Lge/100 km), before climbing back to 6.2 Lge/100 km in 2019, 13% lower than the global average. Between 2005 and 2019, average fuel consumption decreased on average 1.3% per year, with fuel economy improvements occurring across all LDV segments. The more recent rise in fuel consumption stems from decreasing shares of diesel LDVs in Germany, along with growing demand for SUVs.

Diesel powertrains, which accounted for 51% of LDV sales in 2012, dropped to 36% of LDV sales by 2019, refleting the lasting impacts of the “diesel-gate” scandal. The majority of LDV sales have shifted to gasoline vehicles, which accounted for 59% of LDV sales in 2019, thereby increasing average fuel consumption. At the same time, the sales shares of hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles have grown to claim more of the LDV market. Sales of electric powertrains in 2019 were 1.9% of LDV sales. Hybrid vehicles were 2% of LDV sales, followed by plug-ins at 1.2%

SUV sales shares in Germany were 33% of LDVs sold in 2019, compared to the global average of 44%. However, this number has increased from a 6% sales share in 2005. Sales of city, medium and large cars have suffered as a result, with for instance city car sales shares dropping from 24% in 2005 to 18% in 2019. The average weight of vehicles in Germany was just 1% above the global average, at 1 503 kg in 2019, reflecting an 8% increase in weight from 2005. 

Overview of current fuel economy policy

Voluntary carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standards were first introduced in the European Union in 1998 and became mandatory in 2009. Corporate average CO2 emissions standards for the period 2015-19 were set at 130 g CO2/km for passenger cars and 175 g CO2/km for light commercial vehicles, while emissions standards for 2020-2024 were set at 95 g CO₂/km for passenger cars and 147 g CO₂/km for light commercial vehicles. Under the “Fit for 55” initiative, Germany will be required to meet new targets including a 55% reduction in emissions of passenger cars in 2030 compared to 2021 and a 2035 target that effectively requires all new light-duty vehicles to have zero tailpipe CO2 emissions.

Since 2004, new vehicles have been required to have a consumer label dispalying specific fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and efficiency class. In 2020, Germany passed an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Tax Act that will require owners of LDVs to pay increasingly higher taxes based on the size of the engine and CO2 emissions of the vehicle. Specifically, owners of vehicles that emit between 96 and 115 g CO2/km will incur a charge of EUR 2 per gram CO2/km. Starting at 116 g CO2/km rates rise up to EUR 4 for vehicles above 195 g CO2/km. The amendment also extends the 10-year vehicle tax exemption, and 50% reduction thereafter for battery electric and fuel-cell vehicles.

In 2015, Germany introduced the Electric Mobility Act, which assigns a label and privileges to electric cars on Germany’s roads, and will remain in force until 2030. From November 2020, an amended regulation to the environmental bonus for the purcahse or lease of electric cars was introduced. Additional criteria for hybrids includes a maximum emission value of 50 g CO2/km or an electric range of at least 40km, though this range requirement increases to 80 km in 2025.