BERLIN: Germany will subsidise electric car purchases to give a jolt to sluggish growth in the sector and help meet national climate goals with zero-emission mobility, the government said Wednesday.
Car buyers will receive 4,000 euros ($4,500) when they choose a purely electric vehicle and 3,000 euros for a plug-in hybrid, with the cost shared 50-50 between the public purse and car makers.
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The programme starting next month aims to help Germany approach its goal of putting one million zero-emission cars on the road by 2020 -- up from just around 50,000 now out of Germany's 45 million cars.
So far, German car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW have signed up to it, but the programme is open to all national and foreign brands.
The government has budgeted 600 million euros for the purchase subsidies, which are expected to run until 2019 at the latest.
The money will be disbursed on a first come, first served basis for cars priced no higher than 60,000 euros, said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
"If you want one, buy it quickly," he told a Berlin press conference.
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The government has also budgeted 300 million euros to speed up building the infrastructure of electric car charging stations in cities and on Autobahn highway stops.
Another 100 million euros would go toward purchasing electric cars for federal government fleets.
Overall, the one-billion-euro government programme should subsidise 400,000 electric cars and boost the segment to the point where the e-car becomes "mass market capable", said Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
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Critics have asked why auto companies that already make billions in profits -- and especially embattled VW, gripped by the global emissions cheating scandal -- should benefit from public subsidies.
Gabriel said the programme, which follows similar schemes in Norway and the Netherlands, would also help future-proof Germany's car sector in times of "the worldwide re-invention of individual mobility".