Denner's View

Volkmar Denner's View On Climate Change

When it comes to road-traffic CO₂ emissions, we need complete transparency: from fuel consumption to the production of fuel and electricity.

By Dr. Volkmar Denner

Climate change is growing in seriousness, but how serious are we about climate action? This is a question that concerns Volkmar Denner, the Bosch CEO. Road traffic is one of the factors contributing to the greenhouse effect. It is responsible for 18 percent of global CO₂ emissions. But a lot of progress has been made here: in Germany, the CO₂ emissions of newly registered vehicles have fallen by one quarter since 2007. And it doesn’t stop there: in the EU, Parliament, Council, and the Commission will soon be debating whether new vehicles’ CO₂ emissions should fall by 30 or 40 percent over the next decade. That said, limits on road-traffic emissions are only part of the picture. To fulfill them, we need consumption data that are as close to reality as possible. Moreover, if we continue to ignore the way fuel and electricity are generated, we will not be telling the whole story about road traffic’s carbon footprint. Anyone who takes climate action on our roads seriously must consider all sources of CO₂ emissions, from well to wheel. There can be no fight against climate change unless we are perfectly clear about CO₂ — that is the subject of this latest edition of “Denner’s view.”


“Anyone who takes climate action on our roads seriously must consider all sources of CO₂ emissions, from well to wheel.”
Volkmar Denner, CEO Bosch

The myth of climate-neutral electric vehicles

Electric Car

The more comprehensively we can measure CO₂ emissions, the more effective we can be in the fight against climate change. Nobody in favor of climate action can afford to ignore road traffic’s overall carbon footprint. In this respect, Bosch argues for taking a comprehensive view — “well to wheel,” right from the source in other words, instead of merely “tank to wheel.” When it comes to global climate, it is not just a vehicle’s direct emissions that count, but also the emissions from fuel production and electricity generation. We would like to see this overall footprint included in the next round of CO₂ legislation. If it is, drivers of electric vehicles will no longer be able to believe their vehicles are carbon-neutral – that they emit zero CO₂, in other words. If Europe’s current energy mix were to be included in the calculation, a compact electric car would have a carbon footprint of 40 grams per kilometer — and if this is based on Germany’s energy mix, it would be as much as 80 grams.

Bosch Logo Design

When it comes to their carbon footprints, combustion engines and electrical powertrains are not that far apart now, nor will they be in the near future. In other words, this is not a clear-cut choice between combustion engines and electric motors. It’s high time we stopped pitting one against the other. Instead, we have to apply the merits of both, as appropriate. Specifically, that means ensuring that combustion engines increase their use of lower-CO₂ fuels, and that electrical powertrains use more renewable energy.

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