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ELECTRIC CAR

Germany boosts support for electric cars with cash bonuses and a million charging points

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said her government was stepping up efforts to roll out a vast network of electric car charging points in a bid to encourage drivers to make the switch and help the country meet its climate targets.

Germany boosts support for electric cars with cash bonuses and a million charging points
Image: Picture alliance/Silas Stein/dpa

In her weekly podcast, Merkel said the rapid expansion of reliable, easy-to-use charging stations across Germany was necessary to give drivers “the confidence to buy an e-car”.

“That’s why we want to create one million charging points by 2030, and the industry will participate in this too,” she said.

The comments came on the eve of a major meeting between car industry bosses and government ministries in Berlin.

In September, Merkel’s government set itself the ambitious goal of increasing the number of charging stations to a million as part of a package of measures to reduce Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

The country currently has just 21,000 public car charging points.

The government’s “climate package” also wants to see seven to 10 million zero-emission electric cars on the roads by 2030, up from around 220,000 last August.

But to achieve that, the transport ministry says drivers first need to overcome “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of juice in between charging points.

According to documents seen by AFP, the ministry will at Monday’s meeting lay out a plan that prioritises installing battery-charging stations at supermarkets and petrol stations, and making it easier for building owners to set up charging points in underground parks. 

Job fears

The pivot to cleaner cars has been given fresh urgency as automakers face tough new EU limits on carbon dioxide emissions, while Berlin has come under pressure to take stronger climate action after falling short of its own 2020 targets for curbing greenhouse gases.

The government has insisted that automakers have to play their part in shifting to the greener cars of tomorrow, by offering discounts to buyers or by filling in gaps in the charging network.

But Merkel, once dubbed the “car chancellor” for her cosy ties with auto bosses, has also stressed that the crucial industry’s 800,000 employees will not be left behind.

Monday’s meeting was also about protecting jobs in the fast-changing sector, she said, adding that retraining schemes could help bring workers “along on the road to a modern, climate-friendly future”.

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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