Do Higher Speed Limits For Electric Vehicles Make Sense?

If the Austrian minister for sustainability and tourism, Elisabeth Köstinger, is going to have it her way, speed limits on Austrian highways will be higher for electric vehicles than for internal combustion engine cars. Now similar demands are being discussed in Germany.

The Austrian situation is specific insofar, as the general speed limit there is at 130km/h, and at around 440 kilometers of highways, either temporary or permanent limits are at 100 km/h, to reduce emissions for the residents.

Dieter Janecek, parliamentarian from the German Green Party and a member of the Digital Committee in the German Bundestag, demanded a similar regulation for electric vehicles on German highways.

Does this make sense?

The argument that electric vehicles are emitting less is certainly true for a country like Austria, which has a high percentage of sustainable energy in its energy mix. Also electric vehicles are not emitting exhaust fumes, especially not along the highway and thus impacting the locals there, and that’s the reasoning behind the different speed limits.

Germany is – depending on the region – more dependent on fossile fuels in the energy mix than in other regions. Also Germany has – as is well known – no general speed limit on highways, just a recommended speed limit of 130km/h.

Highways still would have locally less exhaust emissions, like in Austria, and thus protect residents. And the exhaust fumes from power stations are managed by experts and thus more efficiently and effectively filtered  than in tens of thousands of privately owned combustion cars with different states of maintenance.

Event that today’s electric vehicles cannot go at high speeds for a longer period and limit the speed – and I mean 160km/h and more – alone the fact that electric vehicles are allowed to drive 130km/h on German highways, while combustion cars are allowed to drive only at speeds of 100km/h, could lead to a boost in EV sales in Germany. More effective than today’s government discounts, and way cheaper for the government.

Of course such a proposal is shaking at the fundaments of Germany’s understanding of car life: driving with no speed limit is quasi-religious, and is used as an argument by the German car industry, of why German car makers are technologically advanced to other auto-nations. Now with trailing behind everyone else in electric vehicles, German car makers could actually benefit from such a speed limit and force them to develop competitive electric vehicles – and thus save the industry from its demise.

If you contrast no speed limits with the German understanding of sustainability, organic food, vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, waste separation and healthy living, where Germany is way ahead of many other countries, the missing speed limit looks pretty anachronistic and like a relict from the past.

I don’t even mention more relaxed driving and lower health risks from crashes, if there were a general and lower speed limit. It just would be another positive effect.

if Germany wants to take sustainable individual mobility serious and take a leading role, such a discussion about speed limits on Autobahns should be started, and even seem natural. And it certainly would help reach the goal of a million electric vehicles on German roads faster.

This article was also published in German.

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