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German Transportation Program for EU Council Presidency Focused on Safety, Fuels and Emissions; Transport Minister Rejects Speed Limits

The EU adds two new members (Bulgaria and Romania) in 2007, for a total of 27 countries. Click to enlarge.

Germany takes leadership of the Group of Eight and the 6-month European Union Council Presidency in 2007. German Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, has presented his program for the German EU, which is focused on safety, fuels and emissions.

However, the Minister is opposed to implementing a speed limit in Germany. “...A general speed limit on open stretches of road does not make sense,” he said in response to the urging for such limits as a means of reduction of fuel consumption and emissions.

On the future energy and resource security front, Tiefensee wants to achieve clear European positions during the six months ahead in a number of areas.

In this context, I will champion a European fuel strategy, and would like to push ahead with proposals on innovative drivetrain technologies and alternative fuels and discuss the issue of energy efficiency.

—Minister Tiefensee

The Minister said he will also seek a coordinated position with the other EU Member States on the inclusion of aviation in emissions trading, and to include all international and domestic flights to and from the EU in the emissions trading scheme. (Earlier post.)

However, Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) says that much more needs to be done lest Germany and the EU miss their greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. A speed limit is part of that. In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Andreas Troge, president of the Umweltbundesamt, said:

With a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour the carbon dioxide output can be reduced by ten to thirty per cent.

Although Germany’s high-speed highways have a recommended speed of 130 kph (80 mph), drivers travel as fast as they like.

PROPSER’s view of ISA systems. Click to enlarge.

Assuming speed limits are in effect, however, enforcement remains an issue. One technological solution under investigation in Europe is Intelligent Speed Adaptation—ISA. An ISA system is one that aids the driver or rider in maintaining road speeds compliant with relevant local statutory or desirable speed limits.

The EU last year wrapped up the PROPSER research project—Project for Research On Speed adaptation Policies on European Roads—which focused primarily on ISA mechanisms as a tool for speed management to increase safety.

PROSPER developed an initial taxonomy for ISA solutions. The proposed categories are:

  1. Provision of in-vehicle information of current posted speed limit. The driver controls the road speed.

  2. Provision of in-vehicle information of current posted speed-limit. Speed limit data can be passed to the vehicle to set a limiting function for road speed.

  3. Provision of in-vehicle information of current posted speed limit. Speed limit data is always passed to the vehicle to set a limiting function for road speed.

  4. Provision of in-vehicle information of current posted speed-limit, which is used as a default as a speed limiting value by the vehicle.

  5. Provision of in-vehicle information of current posted speed limit. The driver controls vehicle road speed, but the system records data of over-speed events.

PROSPER also proposed various subcategories to represent variations in those basic ISA approaches.

Once the insfrastructure is in place to locate the vehicle, pick up data on speed limits (location and values), integrate the vehicle location and speed limit value and process the data, ISA implementation requires some type of driver or vehicle interface to affect the speed of the vehicle.

PROSPER tested two types of interface systems: a display, light and beep-sound; and a display and active intervention in the form of counterforce in the accelerator pedal or a dead throttle (speed limiter).

The researchers concluded that display plus active counterforce has a larger effect than just the display. They also found that using the dead throttle is more effective than the high-counterforce pedal. A low-counterforce pedal was the least effective. A vibrating gas pedal is somewhere between the high-force pedal and the low force pedal.

The team also concluded that:

Probably it is inherent to ISA that the more effective the system, the more negative the attitudes towards the system are.



FYI co2

German speed limits are like US limits on consumption, the narcissist needs to feel they have something more. Obviously, German auto (Porsche, Daimler, BMW) sales are driven by high end autobahn torque regardless of the 10-30% emission reduction and reduced fatalities.


Perhaps, in addition to a mpg display, they should add a grams of co2 per km display. When you surged on the autobahn, the display would send off alarm signals.


I think setting a statutory speed limit at 130 kph (82 mph) would be sensible. It strikes a balance between safety and economy.

In the UK, where the speed limit on a divided highway is 70 mph, green groups are suggesting that the speed should be reduced to 50 mph. I think this is too low. Despite any benefits in fuel economy, safety would be compromised as people would simply "switch-off" out of boredom and not concentrate on the road ahead.

I'm aware of evidence that relaxed and more generous speed limits have led to lower caualties, contrary to exagerrated predictions of carnage and death. This leads me to suspect that a policy of reducing speed limits on open roads has nothing to do with reducing emissions but more based towards boring people out of their cars and onto public transport.

Adding a high overdrive gear to cars would help them get better mileage at higher speeds. My partner, for example, has a 6th gear in her 1997 Audi A6 2.5 TDi and the mileage is a respectable 50 mpg thanks to the much lower engine speed. In a 50 mph limit economy is no better. In fact it is worse, as there is not enough torque to allow that car to be pulled well enough in 6th gear. I know this through personal experience as Audi's and indeed other German cars already have an mpg display. As MPG is already tied to CO2 emission, I don't think that a CO2 display is necessary.

Of course lets not lose sight of the fact that lower speed limits will work where there are heavy traffic volumes. This is where an approach to using variable speed limits, as demonstrated on London's M25, proves to be very effective on minimising congestion and emissions.

Also, don't forget that many areas that have become traffic calmed with 20 mph limits and speed humps have a detrimental effect on mileage. But again safety rather then economy is the main driver of these schemes.

Its all about balance.

Roger Pham

Putting speed limit on the German autobahn would be a big insult to the fine high-end German motorcars born and bred to be driven fast, and also an insult to automotive passion. Speed limit of 65-70 mph in the entire USA has already done enough damage to automotive passion. A car is more than a means of transportation. It's an expression of personality, and some are meant to be driven nothing but fast, to satisfy the [more than]"occasional need for speed."

However, I must qualify the above with the reality that not all cars nor all drivers are meant to be driven fast. Most cars in the road today are neither safe nor efficient at Autobahn speeds. Only certain cars and drivers should be given that priviledge. I propose that "fast lanes" should be toll road electronically enforced. To qualify, the driver must pass rigourous driving simulation test (eg. Need For Speed 4, Too Fast & Too Furious...etc...), apply and register his/her car makes and model with thorough inspection report, before a toll-tag can be received. Toll will be collected for driving in the "fast lanes" and money collected from this "fast-lane" toll will be used toward development of renewable energy.
There, that's how you can eat a cake and still have it! too!

Robert Schwartz

German Speed Limits: I Can’t Drive 155 By Robert Farago on December 30th, 2006.


I would say our passion for cars are already way too excessive. So much are sacrificed for the sake of horsepower, testosterone, adrenaline and simple vainity.

shaun mann

Germany already has a highly graduated licensing system that reduces the ability of inexperienced or poor drivers from getting hella fast cars.

The discussion about efficiency hits on two fronts:

Firstly, vehicles designed for lower speeds don't need as large of engines, allowing for the use of smaller, more efficient engines that will reduce consumption at all speeds.

Secondly, the faster you drive in any car, the more power is required, the more fuel is used. This increases because of drag, so it increases exponentially. Doubling the speed requires roughly four times the power. So fuel efficiency quickly plummets.

A Buggati Veyron at 60 mph uses 50 hp and driven constantly at that speed probably returns somewhat respectable fuel efficiency. At 250 mph, it uses 1000 hp and can empty its 25 gallon fuel tank in 12 minutes.

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