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File timelapse photo of a section of Autobahn in Germany.
File timelapse photo of a section of Autobahn in Germany.

Germany’s autobahn may soon have speed limit of 130 kmph. Here is why

  • Autobahn, Germany’s national highway network, is known as the highway without speed limits. It is the only European nation to not have a general speed limit on its highways.

Set aside bread, beer and sausages. Germany can claim its fame to fast cars and autobahn, its national highway network. The country is the biggest automobile hub in Europe, being home to some of the major carmakers like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW. It is also home to highways that has no speed limits.

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There is Nurburgring for racing, where experts are often seen testing supercars and hypercars, then there is autobahn for the rest of the lot. It is a highway network where driving fast is a licence that no other public roads in the world gives. However, all that could change if reports are to be believed.

As Germany heads to polls later this month, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Olaf Scholz, is seen as the favourite to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel. If the SPD manages to win, they have promised to put a speed limit on autobahn to a maximum of 130 kms per hour (81 miles per hour). The proposal has already received nods from its possible alliance partners the Greens and Left party.

The discussion about a speed limit on German roads has been going on for years. Though a lot of people think autobahn is a highway without any legal speed limit, it is partly true. According to ADAC, Germany's national automobile association, around 40 per cent of autobahn has speed restrictions. There is a speed recommendation of 130 kmph to ensure safety of commuters. The speed restrictions are stricter at curves, near construction sites or cities. 

Andreas Scheuer, Germany’s Minister of Transport, said, “The German autobahns are the safest roads in the world. We tend to have problems with road safety on country roads, that is what our focus must be."

Surprising as it may sound, the proposal to limit speed on autobahn is not due to safety concerns. It is actually to make the environment cleaner.

According to the German Environment Agency, a 130 kmph speed limit on autobahn could bring down greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million tons every year, about one per cent of Germany’s overall transport emissions. It is nearly five per cent of total vehicular emissions on highways. The emission can drop further if speed limits are reduced more.

Scheuer also thinks that if number of ICE vehicles keep dropping with people opting for cleaner electric vehicles, the emission figures will also drop more drastically. "With automation and autonomous driving, the average speed will drop anyway. A driver of an electric car knows if you change the pace too often or drive too fast, you will quickly run out of range of your car," he added.

Recently, France has implemented a 30 kmph speed limit in most parts of Paris in an attempt to reduce accidents and making Paris more pedestrian-friendly. The French capital joined a list of other cities like Lille, Montpellier, Grenoble, Nantes and Rennes where similar rule already exists. In other parts of Europe, Lausanne in Switzerland or Hamburg, Bremen, Munich and Berlin in Germany also have similar speed limits for vehicles.

  • First Published Date : 09 Sep 2021, 01:57 PM IST