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German govt panel recommends 130-kmh cap on autobahn

Berlin

IN Kraftwerk's famous ode to the autobahn, drivers savoured the freedom of limit-free motorways. That could all end, under proposals from a government panel.

A cap of 130 kilometres per hour is being recommended by unions and environmentalists, according to a leaked report, putting an end to Germany's famous open road policy.

The proposals are for new laws to cut emissions in all sectors of the economy, Bild Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday.

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Environmentalists backed by the Green Party have been at loggerheads with the German Association of the Automotive Industry lobby for years over the open road policy.

While roadworks and other restrictions continually taper driving speeds along the motorways, the absence of speed limits enhances Germany's reputation both as a maker of high-performance cars and as a nation that lets customers drive them.

In a front-page headline on Saturday, the tabloid Bild Zeitung blasted the proposals as a "mad" shock to all car drivers. "Our autobahnen (motorways) are a symbol of freedom. 'Tested on German autobahn' is a quality seal," it said in a leader column. "There are enough speed limits."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has little choice but to tackle CO2 output from automobiles. As a signatory of the Paris Climate accord, Germany must slash emissions from energy, industry, heating and cooling, and farming by 2030.

The panel also recommended a staged increase of petrol and diesel taxes to 52 euro cents (80 Singapore cents) per litre by 2030, while electric cars and hybrids should account for half of new registrations.

Full-electric and hybrid passenger cars accounted for only 2 per cent of all German road registrations in 2018, while sales of special utility vehicles reported the fastest growth for conventional vehicles. BLOOMBERG