MAN Truck & Bus

A portrait photo of Ismail Ertug.

There is still a lot to do in the mobility transition

Interview with Ismail Ertug, Transport expert in the European Parliament, Brussels


Ismail Ertug (SPD) is a Member of the European Parliament. The transport expert wants to significantly reduce emissions from the transport sector, including private vehicles: His next car will be a plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle.

What role do public transport and electric buses play for climate protection within the EU? Public communications tend to talk mostly about private cars.

Ismail Ertug Commercial vehicles play a key role, we most definitely have not forgotten them. It’s true though that communications around climate protection are often dominated by private cars. However, both commercial and private vehicles use the same streets and emit around 30% of all CO2 emissions. Other sectors have made massive savings here, but unfortunately the transport sector has not kept pace. Emissions from truck freight transport across the EU for example, have risen by 25% since 1990. So there is still a lot to do, and that’s why we’re working together with the member states. When it comes to public transport, for instance, we need to guarantee affordable and individual mobility if we are also to find the best solution to the first and last mile problem. This is where we need to find new possibilities, such as e-bikes, e-scooters or even one day self-driving vehicles – although I’m not their biggest fan. That could be a great solution for public transport in rural areas and would make a major contribution to achieving zero emissions.

How far has the mobility revolution progressed in the EU? What still needs to be done?

Ismail Ertug We have to be aware that even in Germany, we are still highly focussed on road transport. That includes the transport of goods. However, we also have the option of rail, air and water, alongside road transport. We are currently trying to make the other, nominally more environmentally methods more robust, but we need to up the pace. We’re already making great advances with rail transport using new digitalisation technologies. According to Deutsche Bahn, around a further 20% of transport capacity will be possible without having to build another metre of rail line. We need to manage to reduce CO2 emissions from all transport by increasing electrification, hydrogen technologies and providing shore-based power for air and sea transport, enabling us to move away from diesel propulsion technologies.

Is there any country within the EU that is streets ahead when it comes to the mobility revolution?

Ismail Ertug When it comes to rail transport, Switzerland and Austria are way ahead for both passenger and freight transport. These two countries invest significantly more in rail transport per capita than Germany. The Netherlands is doing very well in the field of alternative infrastructure: the country is number one for electric cars per head – ahead of even Norway. In 2021, there were 109 cars for every charging point in the Netherlands. This figure is 147 cars per charging point in Norway.

A portrait photo of Ismail Ertug while he is giving a speech.




Ismail Ertug (SPD) 
Member of the European Parliament


Where is Germany currently on this? Are we doing a good job on alternative drive technologies and charging infrastructure?

Ismail Ertug In 2021, Germany was ranked 12th in Europe with 1,014 cars per charger. So there is still room for improvement. However, there have been investments and improvements in early 2022. In general though, we need to make a real effort to achieve the aims of the climate agreement. There has been a lot of talk, now is the time for action. The private sector, including Tesla, IONITY and EnBW, has already done a great deal in the area of charging infrastructure. Now it is time for the government to catch up. In this respect, the European Union’s biggest problem is its member states. Much is hindered again and again, and no consensus can be found. If we had complied with the alternative infrastructure directive in 2014, as stipulated by the Commission, we would have already had 677,000 public charging points across Europe by the end of 2020. Unfortunately, that was shot down at the time, largely due to the automotive industry. As a result, we have lost seven years, and that has now come home to roost. However, since the emissions scandal and the EU regulation on CO2 fleet limits, there is finally movement on this topic. Now, NGOs, unions, industry and politics are all finally singing from the same hymn sheet. In summary, we are now on the right track.

How do you get around? Car sharing? Bicycle? Bus and rail? Or a good old V8?

Ismail Ertug When I am in Brussels, I always use an e-bike. That’s four days each week. For me, the e-bike is the perfect way to get around the city. At home, I can get to many places on foot as we live in a fairly rural area at the edge of the city. For longer journeys, for instance when I have to go to Strasbourg, I travel in a small petrol car. It’s simply too good and too new to throw it out. However, my next car will definitely be a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric vehicle.

Text   Boris Pieritz, Christian Jeß
Photos   Ismail Ertug, European Union, Shutterstock, MAN

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