Economic Policy and Infrastructure


In 2014 as well, the car was used in Germany for more than 80 percent of passenger transport. Its transport volume increased to 928.8 billion person kilometers, a rise of 1.2 percent compared to the previous year. The most recent traffic forecast by the German Federal Government – with a time frame out to 2030 – expects that the car will also remain by far the dominant means of transport in the future, with a market share of just under 79 percent.

Situation car toll

The Federal Government intends to introduce a car toll in Germany in 2016. This will have to be paid by everyone who drives their car on federal autobahns or federal highways. All car owners in Germany will have to pay an annual toll, set at up to 130 euros depending on the size and environmental friendliness of the car. Once the owner of the vehicle has approved the direct debit mandate, the vehicle’s license plate will be activated in the electronic toll recording system. Foreigners will have the opportunity to purchase a 10-day vignette for the flat-rate charge of 10 euros or can pay 22 euros for a two-month vignette. Car owners in Germany will receive compensation in the form of reduced motor vehicle duty – in the same amount as the car toll that they have paid.

The Federal Government is hoping to generate revenue amounting to 700 million euros annually from foreign vehicle owners. From this figure, it will be necessary to subtract one-off costs for the technology and administration of 379 million euros during the startup phase, with a further 170 million euros annual ongoing costs. The remaining income is to be “ring-fenced for improving the transport infrastructure.”

However, this leaves many questions unanswered: It is not certain whether owners of vehicles registered abroad will generate a toll income of 700 million euros annually. Alternative income estimates by transport experts have produced significantly lower results. As a result, hardly any income would remain following subtraction of the system costs. Furthermore, the Federal Government only wants to ring-fence the revenue for the transport infrastructure as a whole. As a result, it will be possible that the money raised from car drivers would cross-subsidize other means of transport. This flies in the face of the basic concept of ring-fencing and using the money where it was raised. Last but not least, it remains to be seen whether the simultaneous reduction in motor vehicle duty represents an infringement of EU law. According to the EU transport commissioner, this is the case. As a result, there is a danger that if the Federal Government pursues its policy with the car toll, we could end up with the situation that owners of vehicles registered in Germany will also have to pay.

It would also end up too expensive for most German car drivers if the introduction of the car toll prompted non-toll neighboring countries to introduce similar measures.

Dr. Michael Niedenthal
Dr. Michael Niedenthal Head of Department Commercial Vehicles, Trailers, Bodies and Buses, Transport Policy

Tel: +49 30 897842-360 Fax: +49 30 897842-600
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