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The Germans insist on their car - but the electric skepticism remains great

The restrictions of the Corona years have left their mark on the mobility behavior of Germans.

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The Germans insist on their car - but the electric skepticism remains great

The restrictions of the Corona years have left their mark on the mobility behavior of Germans. This is shown by a large representative survey by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy on behalf of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech).

According to this, the willingness of those surveyed to drive less has increased significantly compared to the time before the pandemic – even if everyday traffic behavior has changed only slightly. 51 percent of those surveyed stated that they could drive less without having to limit themselves significantly.

The pollsters' question was: "Could you drive a lot or a little less without having to severely restrict yourself, or would that be difficult or impossible?". In 2019, only 28 percent of citizens answered that they could drive “significantly less” or “slightly less” without major restrictions.

During the Corona period, the population “took a crash course in terms of change,” said Allensbach Managing Director Renate Köcher when presenting the results. This also refers to the use of different means of transport, which was restricted, among other things, by the mask requirement or flight cancellations.

“With the end of the pandemic, most have reverted to previous mobility patterns. But many would like to keep some things that they have trained themselves over time," said Köcher. This applies in particular to people who want to walk more and use their bicycles more often.

"After all, every fifth person says: I would like to use the car less and generally travel less," Köcher quoted from the results. That is of course not a majority, but one fifth of the population means millions of citizens. In general, mobility patterns change very slowly, said Köcher. This aspect is neglected in the political debate if one concentrates more on goals than on their implementation.

It is absolutely undisputed that the car remains the number one means of transport in Germany, even in large cities. When asked which means of transport is indispensable for city dwellers, 72 percent named the car, followed by the bicycle with 51 percent (multiple answers were possible). According to the survey, 42 percent cannot do without local public transport. Allensbach collected the data at the end of 2022. It is the fourth annual "Mobility Monitor" in a row.

Köcher pointed out that there are major differences between urban and rural areas when it comes to using transport and assessing one's own options. "You have to see that changing mobility patterns depends very much on where someone lives," she said.

While 83 percent of the inhabitants of villages stated that the car was indispensable for them, this was only 61 percent in the big cities. Almost as many city dwellers (59 percent) consider the bus and train to be indispensable - in the village this is only 18 percent. The assessments of a possible switch to public transport are very similar. At least 30 percent of drivers in large cities consider buses and trains to be a “serious alternative” to their own car.

The smaller the place, the lower this number becomes: In medium-sized towns it is still 22 percent, in villages public transport is only conceivable as an alternative for 14 percent of drivers. Overall, 68 percent of drivers in Germany do not see buses and trains as an alternative for their own mobility in everyday life.

The Germans are obviously not satisfied with this situation. "The population is aware of the urgency of climate protection," said Köcher. Despite the crises of recent years, the topic has not faded into the background. And the citizens are also aware that many levers for climate protection have to be set in motion in the transport sector.

Approval for further investments in local public transport is correspondingly high: 71 percent of those surveyed consider it important that investments are made in local transport systems in order to reduce the impact on the climate, and 67 percent hope that freight transport will be shifted more to rail.

Both values ​​have risen significantly compared to 2020 and 2021 and are now back to the level of 2019. Approval for nuclear energy has also risen particularly sharply: 41 percent of citizens consider extending the service life to be important in order to reduce the impact on the climate. In 2020 it was still 20 percent.

When it comes to public transport, the federal government is starting with its 49-euro ticket project at a point that is really burning on the nails of the citizens. Because according to the mobility monitor, the high prices and the fragmented tariff zones in the country are the biggest annoyances for those surveyed. After all, 58 percent said that they would use public transport more often if tickets were cheaper.

For 48 percent, it would be necessary for “buses and trains to run more frequently”. Accordingly, 64 percent of Germans consider the 49-euro ticket to be a good measure, while 12 percent reject it. And 20 percent of the population intends to use the new ticket, which will be valid nationwide from May 1st, themselves. The proportion of those who already travel by bus and train is significantly higher (45 percent).

According to the survey, there is still a great deal of skepticism among the population about electric cars as a solution to the climate problem. "The circle of those who would buy such a car has stagnated at 23 to 24 percent for years," says the evaluation. Only three percent of Germans use an electric car. In addition to the high acquisition costs (71 percent), most citizens are also deterred by the question of a sufficient number of charging stations (64 percent) and the high electricity price (62 percent).

In addition, 60 percent of the survey participants consider it "questionable whether electric cars are really more environmentally friendly". Acatech President Jan Wörner admitted that the acquisition costs of e-cars are still relatively high. "But you should also pay attention to the total operating costs," he said, then the price is put into perspective. In addition, new traffic models are being developed that could also offer alternatives to private cars in rural areas in the future.

The Allensbach results show that many Germans are hoping for such solutions. "The reservations about electric mobility have nothing to do with a lack of openness to innovation," said Köcher. In fact, many hoped that digitalization would improve traffic flow. In addition, 68 percent of Germans would like it if more professionals could work from home - which also contributes to reducing road traffic. According to Köcher, however, this effect is overestimated. Because a minority benefits from working from home: only 14 percent of those in employment in Germany do not have to come to work.

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