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Germany's Scholz praises auto industry amid protests, announces EV expansion law

2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility

By Victoria Waldersee and Andreas Rinke

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz lauded the German car industry's efforts at electrification at Munich's IAA car show and condemned protests as "irritating" as he announced a new law to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations.

Scholz said that the coming weeks will see Germany become "the first country in Europe to introduce a law requiring operators of 80% of all service stations to provide fast-charging options with at least 150 kilowatts for e-cars".

The expansion will make range anxiety a thing of the past for EV drivers, he added.

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Sporting an eye patch after a jogging accident at the weekend, Scholz did not give a time frame for the initiative.

Europe's biggest economy has only 90,000 public charging points but is targeting 1 million by 2030 to boost EV take-up.

Germany had about 1.2 million fully electric vehicles on its roads by the end of April, far short of the 15 million it aims to have by 2030, data from the KBA federal motor authority shows.

High prices, limited range and a lack of charging stations, especially in rural areas, have been cited as the main reasons for the lag in EV sales.

"THE PARTY IS OVER"

The chancellor's tour of Munich's IAA car show was interrupted twice by protesters climbing on top of cars at the BMW and Mercedes-Benz stands, holding signs saying "The party is over" in German and shouting, "The future is being destroyed."

Addressing the protests, Scholz said at the end of his tour: "Protests are part of public and democratic debate ... but it is a little anachronistic. If you walk through these stands and see the new technologies... to make mobility have less or no emissions in future, it is a bit irritating."

"We can increase our wellbeing with great products, and they will be carbon-neutral," he added.

On competition from China in EV production, Scholz said: "Competition should spur us on, not scare us.

"In the 1980s, it was said Japanese cars would overrun the market. Twenty years later it was cars 'made in Korea' and now supposedly Chinese electric cars," he said, playing down such fears and maintaining that the competitiveness of German carmakers is "beyond doubt".

Chinese EV makers including BYD, Nio, Xpeng and Leapmotor are all targeting the European market, where EV sales soared by nearly 55% to about 820,000 vehicles in the first seven months of 2023 to account for about 13% of all car sales.

While Western carmakers fret over intense competition from Chinese rivals, major German auto suppliers told Reuters at the mobility show that they were eager to expand existing partnerships in China and provide those rising manufacturers with European-made parts.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Andreas Rinke, Jan SchwartzWriting by Friederike Heine and Sarah MarshEditing by Miranda Murray, David Goodman)