Germany's Merkel sticks to 1m electric cars target despite setbacks

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has reaffirmed her target to bring one million electric cars onto German roads by the end of the decade, despite weak interest from consumers.

Her government is hosting a two-day industry summit in Berlin to promote the fledgling technology, after fewer than 3,000 electric cars were sold in Germany last year out of a total market that exceeded 3 million.

The German auto industry plans to invest roughly 12 billion euros (S$19.6 billion) in alternative powertrains, including battery-powered electric cars, in the next three to four years, according to industry association VDA.

"Driving electrically is no vision anymore, it's a reality. Thousands of cars are already on our roads and by the end of the next year, German carmakers will have at least 16 electric series production cars on sale," said VDA President Matthias Wissmann.

Ms Merkel affirmed her target in a statement, stressing the importance of cross-border cooperation.

Once hyped as a technology that would revolutionise the automotive industry and eventually crowd out conventional petrol-fuelled cars, sales have barely taken off due to high costs and range limitations.

According to a survey of roughly 1,000 German drivers by the country's motoring club ADAC, Germans are much more sceptical about the technology than two years ago and less willing to accept inconveniences like long charging times.

ADAC said on Monday that nearly half of all German car owners are unwilling to pay extra for an electric car for their next purchase.

The low interest in Germany is nothing unique.

On Sunday, electric car company Better Place, which had partnered with French carmaker Renault and set up a battery charging network in Israel and Denmark, filed a motion in an Israeli court to liquidate.

Renault said on Monday that the move did not call into question its own electric vehicle strategy, one of the most aggressive.

Upstart US electric car maker Tesla has bucked the trend, reporting its first-ever quarterly profit this month and paying off its US government loans nine years earlier than required.

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