Driving with Bio-ethanol

E10 in Germany – is your car compatible?

February 2nd, 2016

Ford Focus FlexifuelThere has been a lot of discussion recently in Germany about the introduction of the new E10 petrol.

  • Is it really good for the environment?
  • Does it really cut CO2 emissions?
  • Will it cause monotonous landscapes and food shortages?

However I am sure that the question on most motorists’ minds is “will it damage my car?”

To help answer this question, the Deutsche Automobil Treuhand who, amongst other things, are one of the sources that car dealers use to estimate the value of a used car, have issued a list of makes and models to help car owners find out whether they can put E10 into their vehicles.

The list also contains telephone numbers for many manufacturers if you are still unsure and prefer to contact them.  Please be aware though, that all of the lists circulating at the moment and even information from the manufacturer only applies if the car still has all of its original parts.

If at some time you have had parts replaced – especially if they were not replaced by official spares but rather by cheaper alternatives – then putting E10 into your tank is probably going to be at your own risk.

Some other posts on this topic that you might like to read:

> Continue reading at AllThingsGerman.net

Changes to the stickers on German number plates

January 2nd, 2016

Emissions test sticker, expires September 2010If you have ever taken a closer look at a German number plate, then you might have been curious as to what the coloured discs mean, that are stuck onto it.

I’ve answered this question previously in a podcast.  The discs are called “Plaketten”. They show the date of the next M.O.T. (TÜV) and, until recently, the date of the next emissions test.

However, that changed at the beginning of this year, and now both are combined into just one sticker.

The whole reason for two stickers was probably due to the introduction of the emissions test in the 1980s and its revision in the 1990s, which did not necessarily have to be at the same time as the M.O.T.  But since all new cars had the tests synchronised to be on the same date, the number of cars with differing stickers has dwindled.  This has led to the tests being officially combined.

A German numberplate with emissions test sticker still in placeBefore: on this car the sticker is still in place

So at the front of the car, the hexagonal sticker has now gone.  Ersatzlos.

A German number plate after the emissions sticker has been removedAfter: a car where the emissions sticker has been removed

The round one at the back remains.

An M.O.T. sticker on a German number plateThe sticker on the rear number plate, showing the new combined M.O.T. is valid until September 2012

Some other posts on this topic that you might like to read:

> Continue reading at AllThingsGerman.net

Die Reichsgaragenordnung – the parking space law

December 27th, 2015

Paragraph Symbol - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / froxxWith the invention of the garage towards the end of the 1930s, the next logical step (in Germany, at least) was to create a law governing them.

It was called the Reichsgaragenordnung and came into effect in 1939.  And yes, it is still on the German statute book and valid to this day!

I first came across the name in the Hausordnung (house rules) for one of the flats that I lived in.

Im übrigen ist jeder Garageneigentümer zur strengen Beachtung der Reichsgaragenordnung verpflichtet.

But which rules does this law actually contain?

Well, the most important part is used by planning departments to determine how many parking spaces are needed for a new building.  If you build a block of flats, the law determines how many parking spaces you need to provide for the residents.

It also applies when you modernise a building, often causing parking spaces to be located on previously green sites due to lack of available land.  In some cases, the owners end up paying for the parking spaces to be created elsewhere in the town.

It is irrelevant whether the tenants actually own or even use that number of cars.

In Austria, where the law is also still valid, it prohibits tenants from keeping mopeds in their flats.

The 203-page law apparently also deals with what you are allowed to store in your garage, winter tyres for example.

One might go as far as seeing this as being typical for Germany – a law for everything!  Personally, I am always fascinated to find laws like this one that did not get revised with the creation of the Federal Republic in 1949.

Some other posts on this topic that you might like to read:

> Continue reading at AllThingsGerman.net

Why your bank may not help you if you pay by ec-card and PIN

March 2nd, 2015

Laptop with card reader - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / MultiartOne of the most popular ways of paying for things  in shops in Germany is by ec-card – a standardised debit card that is issued by most banks and accepted by most shops. The card, which has a both a magnetic strip and a chip on it, generally comes with a PIN and you enter the PIN when paying to confirm the transaction, although some older card readers still require you to sign a slip of paper instead.

The money is debited from your bank account in a similar way to a direct debit (“Lastschrift”), but the similarity stops here. Because whereas a direct debit can be reversed within 6 weeks, I recently found out that such protection is not offered when paying by PIN.

My problems began when I bought petrol using my ec-card on the motorway in Belgium. The petrol pump was one where you insert your card before filling up to release the petrol. I filled up and wanted a receipt, but although the terminal offered me one, it did not print it. A similar problem happened to the person at the pump behind me, so we both went into the shop to ask for one, but not until I had taken a photograph of the pump’s display on my mobile phone.

Inside the shop, there was no sign of a receipt either at first. “It can take a moment for it to appear on the computer” we were told, and a few minutes later the receipt for the other customer did appear. But not mine. After some discussion about which pump and the amount someone decided to re-start the computer controlling the till – and out came my receipt.

The shock came that evening when I checked my on-line bank account and saw that it had not been debited the €65,67 that the receipt showed, but with €120,00 – almost double the amount!

It was too late to the bank, so I fired off an e-mail to them explaining the problem, attaching a scan of the receipt and asking them to call me urgently the next morning.

However the next morning I received a reply that stunned me completely. “We cannot say with 100% certainty that the debit to your account is the receipt, because the subject (“Verwendungszweck”) is ambiguous. Although the date and time of the debit match the receipt and the name of the petrol station is in the debit instruction. As the payment was made by entering your PIN we cannot reverse the debit and you will have to sort out the problem with the petrol station locally.”

In other words, it was up to me to go back to the petrol station, which was by now about 300km away, and get them to correct their debit from me account.

I was not going to accept this and called the bank. Speaking to the central office rather than my branch, I explained the problem that I had had in obtaining a receipt at all and that I had photographic evidence of the amount as well. My PIN guaranteed that amount, but surely it did not guarantee the transaction if the vendor debited a higher amount?

Luckily I was speaking to someone who probably had more experience of these transactions and the moment they heard that I was talking about a petrol station in Belgium they realised was going on and explained it to me.

When you insert your card to release the petrol, the station effectively does a credit check on you by asking your bank to reserve €120 the expected debit. This permits the pump to give you up to €120 of petrol and takes place in real time. Once you have actually filled up they revoke the reservation and debit the actual amount owed. For this transaction they have several days. The advice was to wait a few days and see if this happened, because if it did not then the reservation would be cancelled automatically by the bank.

Relieved at this competent and informative statement I waited. And sure enough, the next day the €120 disappeared and €65,67 was taken off my account.

However the episode was not without a consequence for the bank. I was impressed that someone knew exactly what was going on, but not that my branch would not help me. Having had a couple of other bad experiences there since my advisor of 10 years got promoted and a new team took over, I decided it was time to leave the branch that I had remained loyal to for 19 years.

I learnt two important pieces of information from that trip:

1. If you have to insert a card in the petrol pump before you start filling up, then your account may show a debit for a higher amount for a few days.

2. If you pay for something using your PIN, and for whatever reason – computer error or vendor fraud – the bank will not help you and you’re on your own. It’s between you and the vendor. Maybe it’s a good reason to pay cash?

Some other posts on this topic that you might like to read:

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> Continue reading at AllThingsGerman.net

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