Innovation & technology

“The fate of the combustion engine has already been sealed”

The overall impact of an electric car in Switzerland is already better than a vehicle with a combustion engine. That’s the view of mobility expert Jörg Beckmann. So, why are so many consumers hesitant?

Sandra Gonseth

Mr Beckmann, what are your thoughts on the futuristic electric bus in Schaffhausen (see image below)?

It clearly shows where we are headed. Combustion-driven vehicles will also disappear from public transport and be replaced by electric batteries.

The Spanish electric bus, which looks like a tram, was presented to the public at the Verkehrsbetriebe Schaffhausen bus depot at the beginning of May. Following a pilot phase in autumn 2019, the electorate will decide whether the vehicles should be definitively introduced. The ancient fortified town of Schaffhausen wants to be one of the first in Europe to switch completely to electric buses.

Is full electrification of road traffic is just a question of time?

In the next few years, car manufacturers will bring more and more electric models to market and tap into existing customer interest. By the end of the 2020s, there will be hardly any cars without a plug socket in showrooms. The fate of the combustion engine has actually already been sealed by industry and politics.

According to our survey, eight percent of Swiss Post employees travel by electric car. Is that a lot?

At present, that is slightly more than the overall percentage of new e-vehicles sold, which in Switzerland stands at just over five percent. As a comparison: in Norway, every second new car already has a plug.

That means the petrol engine is still first choice for many drivers. Why are people hesitant?

Partly out of habit, and partly due to a lack of information or incorrect information. From a technical perspective, the electric car has reached maturity. Ranges of 300 to 400 kilometres are increasingly the norm. Supplying the cars with energy is no longer an issue thanks to home-based charging stations. The public charging network is growing and becoming easier to access – although some planning is still required for very long journeys.

Many consumers have doubts as to whether electric cars are actually that environmentally friendly...

That’s a good example of incorrect information! These doubts have been fuelled by the wide range of contradictory statements in the media. The reality is that the overall impact of an electric car in Switzerland is already better than a vehicle with a combustion engine. This is proven by life cycle analyses conducted by recognized environmental research institutes, including the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa).

Can you explain that more in detail?

Thanks to the energy revolution, the power required to manufacture batteries is increasingly coming from renewable sources. And the batteries can continue to be used in the car as decentralized reserves even after a few hundred thousand kilometres. While electromobility becomes ever cleaner, the ecological impact of fossil fuels is increasing in scale enormously.

What incentives need to be created?

The wide number of private and public measures involved in the Swiss “Electromobility Roadmap” will play a key role. Expansion of the charging infrastructure along the motorway network, electrification of company fleets and specifications for e-mobility in building regulations provide a strong package of incentives for Switzerland that is one of the most attractive in the world.

Will we own any personal cars at all in the not-too-distant future?

They will become increasingly rare, as start-ups and established players from the digital economy and transport industry are launching new mobility services which will guarantee individual mobility even without private car ownership.

And that means?

Everything that until now has been possible only with your own car will in future also be possible with ever-larger car sharing fleets or monthly car hire subscriptions. Fully-automated cars that arrive at your door without a driver after being ordered by app will likely not be held in private hands.

Find out more!

You can find out more about the future of mobility at the Swiss Mobility Arena, which will be held in Berne from 16 – 19 September 2019. Switzerland’s largest traffic innovation forum is being organized by the TCS Mobility Academy, with Swiss Post as the main partner.

Take a look at the video post by Jörg Beckmann to find out who is involved in the Swiss Mobility Arena.

Anne Wolf, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Swiss Post and Vice President of Swiss eMobility, discussing electromobility

Copyright: Monika Flückiger, Michael Kessler

written by

Sandra Gonseth