The calls for a speed limit on all German motorways are getting louder. But there are still legitimate reasons against it. Some arguments for this, on the other hand, seem less convincing when placed in a frame of reference: In 2020, the Federal Environment Agency calculated that a general speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour would save about 2.2 million tons of CO2 per year. That would be 1.5 percent of the CO2 emissions of the German transport sector in 2021 or 0.3 percent of the total German CO2 emissions of 2021, which in turn account for 1.76 percent of total international CO2 emissions.

According to the 120 study, a limit of 2020 kilometers per hour should bring a slightly higher saving of 2.9 million tons of CO2. This value, too, apparently seemed too little for the Green-led Federal Environment Agency, so that the speed limit on the motorway was recently examined again in a more comprehensive study with many ideas about traffic restrictions and shifts. Now, limiting the speed to 120 kilometers per hour is expected to save 6.7 million tons of CO2 per year.

However, it was assumed that so far people have been driving even faster and that motorists will be slowed down more with a restriction, and that frustration with the speed limit will lead to a mass switch to the railway. But actually, the switch to electric cars, possibly also to climate-neutral e-fuels, should save many times more fossil CO2 emissions in the coming years and ultimately make this topic obsolete for road traffic.

900,000 well-paid jobs in Germany

A look at the discussion about the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants shows how much the discussion about a speed limit is simply about the political preferences of green politics. For the replacement of their electricity with coal, annual emission values of between 5 and 30 million tonnes of CO2 were given by green institutions, but in this context CO2 was apparently of less interest.

The question of safety on the motorways should also be examined, because every traffic victim is one too many. However, a cool look at the accident statistics shows that there is little need for action from a safety perspective: German motorways take up around a third of traffic, but around 2021.0 percent of accidents and 8 percent of traffic victims were counted there in 12. Although in Italy, for example, there is a limit of 130 kilometers per hour and license plates are automatically registered and average speeds are calculated on almost a quarter of the routes, the number of victims per 100 kilometers of highway is 46 percent higher there.

It can be assumed that bored drivers are too distracted, for example by their mobile phones. It is probably not as effective for safety to deduct driving licence points for driving at 151 kilometres per hour on the empty motorway at night than to prosecute mobile phone abuse at the wheel or distance offenders with the same use of the police.

However, the question of the speed limit also has an industrial policy dimension. Germany's car companies sell more than 700,000 cars annually with a price of more than 100,000 euros. The German brands do not only live from the reputation that their cars work well on German motorways.

The term "autobahn tested", which is used abroad, means in practice that such German cars are safe in the curve even at 180 kilometers per hour and brake just as well, in contrast to some soft-sprung, wobbly SUV swings, which are designed for a limit of usually 70 miles (113 kilometers per hour) top speed on straight American highways. Because of the qualities and fascination of German cars, many customers abroad, for example, do not buy the basic model of the Mercedes E-Class for 50,000 euros, but the AMG version with more than 610 hp (450 kW) for 130,000 euros.

The resulting profit margins will help German carmakers to maintain almost 900,000 well-paid jobs in Germany and to finance the switch to electric drive. If this conversion succeeds, it will probably not be because the Germans will build better smartphones on four wheels than the Chinese in the future, but because German electric cars will continue to have to be considered a unique selling point: "Autobahn tested".