The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Swiss electric car ‘ban’ causes undue stress

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 5 December 2022

Will electric car trips be restricted in Switzerland this winter? It’s possible, but very unlikely according to a draft proposal on emergency measures to conserve energy in the event of an extreme shortage. 

Swiss electric car ‘ban’ causes undue stress

In 2021, Tesla was the most purchased new car according to an earlier report.

Headlines over a proposed electric vehicle (EV) ban in Switzerland have caused confusion as Swiss residents wonder whether the country is moving away from gasoline dependency – as is touted by an initiative to make 50% of cars on the road electric by 2025 – or not. It turns out, the reality is far less menacing for EV drivers.

More on the proposed ban

The Federal Council last month wrote a draft proposal of emergency responses should Switzerland suffer a dire electricity shortage. The “Ordinance on Restrictions and Prohibitions on the Use of Electric Energy” (German) outlines levels of how the Swiss government would restrict electrical energy “to secure the country’s electricity supply.” The levels would be put in place in response to an escalating shortage of electricity. The strictest measures, including a ban on EVs making non-essential journeys, would not go into effect until stage 3. Many other restrictions would go into place before Switzerland would reach this point.

At stage 1, residents and business would be asked to turn off air conditioners, portable heaters, parking lot lights, hot water in public toilets, heating in spaces with open doors, lights in empty spaces, and leaving computers on when they are not being used.

In stage 2, Switzerland would ask residents and businesses to stop using clothes dryers, festive lights, hot plates, ice machines, escalators, moving walkways, and restrict outdoor advertisements.

In stage 3, many more bans and restrictions would go into effect, including: shops would be asked to reduce their hours and close some branches, buildings would restrict heating to 18 degrees C (except in medical facilities), heating pools and Jacuzzis would be banned, lighting for sports fields, concerts, and theater would be banned, as well as inflatable structures and car washes. The use of gaming consoles, video players, online streaming, and crypto mining would also be banned. Only at this point, would the Swiss government ban non-essential trips in electric cars. Essential trips include for work, school, buying food and for medical purposes.

Swiss electric car ‘ban’ causes undue stress

Although Switzerland’s natural gas supply does not come directly from Russia, trickle down issues in the supply chain could affect the country.

Is Switzerland at risk of an energy shortage?

Switzerland, like many European countries, is thinking ahead as the Russian war on Ukraine has caused disruptions in the energy supply chain. For now, Switzerland is not at serious risk. The country is self-sufficient most of the year thanks to hydro and nuclear power; but must import about 40% of its energy during the colder months. Most of that goes to heating homes and offices.

Read more: How Switzerland’s looming energy crisis is pulling the nation apart

Energy consumption does appear to be decreasing as electric bills increase. Also, a public campaign urging residents to be wary of their consumption appears to be having an effect: Swiss natural gas consumption dropped by 20% in early fall according to the Federal Office for National Economic Supply.

Swiss electric car ‘ban’ causes undue stress

The electricity the Kernkraftwerk plant in Leibstadt generates makes a substantial contribution towards Switzerland’s energy supply.

The question of nuclear power

A group of Swiss politicians, called ‘Stop Blackouts,’ says that a lot of anxiety could be avoided if the government would quash a 2017 decision to close all five of its nuclear reactors. The 2017 decision to move away from nuclear energy was driven by safety concerns following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. One reactor has already been shut down.

The group, launched this fall, is petitioning the government to overturn this decision and change the Swiss constitution so that the federal government would be officially responsible for ensuring the country’s energy supply through “any form of climate-friendly electricity generation.”

“Until recently, Switzerland had safe and virtually CO₂-free electricity production: the environmentally and climate-friendly combination of hydro and nuclear power is to be abandoned for no reason at all,” reads the Stop Blackouts website.

Stop Blackouts is collecting 100,000 signatures from Swiss supporters, so that they will be able to get the issue on a voter referendum, under Switzerland’s direct democracy law. Even if the voter referendum is passed in a popular vote, it could take months, or even years, for the government to implement the plan.

For now, Switzerland’s oldest nuclear reactor, Beznau 1, was given the green light this summer to begin operating again. Moreover, France is planning to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors.

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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