* Wants 1 mln electric cars in Germany by 2020
* Only 3,000 sold in Germany last year
* Nearly half of Germans won't pay higher cost
* Better Place failure not seen as significant problem
By Christiaan Hetzner and Andreas Cremer
BERLIN, May 27 Chancellor Angela Merkel
reaffirmed her target to bring one million electric cars on to
German roads by the end of the decade, despite evidence of
dwindling consumer interest.
"You have a chancellor who believes in electromobility," she
told a conference to promote electric car technology, less than
24 hours after the collapse of an Israeli electric car company.
Fewer than 3,000 electric cars were sold in Germany last
year out of a total market that exceeded 3 million.
The German auto industry plans to invest roughly 12 billion
euros ($15.5 billion) in the next three to four years in
alternative powertrains, including battery-powered electric
cars, according to the president of industry association VDA.
"Driving electrically is no vision anymore, it's a reality,"
said VDA's Matthias Wissmann.
Yet economy Minister Philipp Roesler refused to adopt the
approach of China, France and the United States, which subsidise
purchases of electric cars to boost demand.
Once hyped as a technology that would crowd out
conventionally-powered cars, electric auto sales have flopped
due to high costs and range limitations.
A survey by Germany's motoring club ADAC said drivers are
much more sceptical about the technology than two years ago and
nearly half are unwilling to pay extra for an electric car.
TESLA RARE SUCCESS
"We actually lose money with each Ampera we sell, because
the technology is too expensive," said Karl-Thomas Neumann,
chief executive of General Motors' unprofitable unit Opel.
Last year, the GM brand sold 5,300 Amperas out of 1 million
cars, making it the best-selling passenger car running on
electricity in Europe, according to the company.
The low interest in Germany is echoed by problems elsewhere.
U.S. electric car battery maker A123 filed for bankruptcy
and cash-strapped Fisker Automotive is in talks to sell itself
to a new owner.
On Sunday, Israeli charging station provider Better Place
filed a court motion to liquidate.
Renault, which partnered with Better Place to set
up a battery swapping network in Israel and Denmark, said the
move did not call into question its own electric vehicle
strategy, one of the most aggressive.
Upstart electric car maker Tesla has been a rare
success story, posting its first-ever quarterly profit.