Hundreds of thousands have repeatedly cashed in government subsidies for buying new electric cars. This is shown by figures from the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa), which are available to WELT AM SONNTAG.

According to this, last year alone 115,376 people submitted several applications for the so-called environmental bonus, and a total of 472,282 citizens and companies wanted the subsidy. That means: One in four has pocketed the bonus for two or more cars. In previous years, the proportion of these multiple applications was even higher.

The figures support the criticism that the subsidies were paid in part for electric cars that were sold abroad after the statutory holding period of six months. Obviously, thousands of buyers took advantage of this opportunity and then applied for the bonus for the next new car.

Due to the sometimes high used car prices in Denmark, for example, you could make a profit with these deals. The federal government has now changed the rules and made this legal subsidy trick more difficult.

At the beginning of March, automotive expert Stefan Bratzel estimated the amount of tax money that the state lost as a result in 2022 at 380 million euros. “This number is probably higher,” said Bratzel now WELT AM SONNTAG. The high number of multiple applications surprised him.

The fact that private customers bought two or more new cars within a year is rather the exception, said the head of the Center of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach. Among the approximately 115,000 buyers there are certainly some who have used the model of resale abroad. Bafa restricts that the figures include legal entities, including companies, for example.

In 2021, almost 106,000 applicants, 26 percent, had collected the bonus several times, in 2020 it was even a third with 41,422. The figures include funding applications for pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Overall, the federal government subsidized the purchase of 820,000 vehicles last year and spent more than 3.4 billion euros on them. Since 2016, more than eight billion euros in tax money have flowed into the promotion of electric cars.

New rules for the environmental bonus have been in effect since January 1st. The holding period was extended to one year, the state share of the subsidy was reduced to a maximum of 4500 euros and completely eliminated for plug-in hybrids. From September, only private individuals may apply for the bonus.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWK) said on request that the multiple applications did not allow any conclusions to be drawn as to “whether subsidized vehicles were resold after the minimum holding period”. It is “at least not the purpose of the funding to support business models or to enable them in the first place, in which subsidized cars are resold as planned shortly after the minimum holding period has expired in order to make a profit”.

Therefore, the minimum holding period has been doubled. Due to the further reduction in subsidy rates in the future, “the incentive to resell vehicles profitably … will be further reduced”.

The CDU member of the Bundestag Tilman Kuban defended the bonus introduced by his party in 2016. It helps many families and makes a new, climate-friendly form of propulsion marketable. “If he is being abused by some people, the federal government has to react. But please, without deterring the many honest buyers from switching to climate-friendly drives with new bureaucracy,” said Kuban.

Experts like Bratzel have been pointing out for years that tens of thousands of used electric cars are being sold abroad. Although around 471,000 purely electric vehicles were newly registered in 2022, the number only increased by 395,000. More than 16 percent of new cars are missing from the statistics.

“It can be assumed that the majority of these vehicles were resold abroad after collection of the subsidy of up to 9,000 euros and a holding period of six months,” wrote Bratzel in his study.

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