For some days now, the internet has been agog with the news that Switzerland has banned electric vehicles. However, that is not true. What the country has done is draft emergency proposals that may come into effect if there is an energy crisis in the winter months.
The document is titled ‘Ordinance on Restrictions and Prohibitions on the Use of Electric Energy’. The Swiss Federal Council may embrace the ordinance if there is an energy shortage in the country. According to the draft, there are four stages or levels of escalation, depending on the severity of the energy crisis. E-mobility restrictions will only kick in at the third stage of escalation.
During the third escalation stage, people will only be allowed to use EVs for absolutely vital journeys like attending religious events, paying a visit to the doctor, shopping, and exercising an individual’s profession.
Also, there is the likelihood that the ban will be partial rather than a blanket ban on EVs. The aim of the ordinance is to regulate “the use of electrical energy to secure the country’s electricity supply”.
If the restriction on EVs ever becomes a reality, Switzerland will be the first country to implement coronavirus-like restrictions on EV use. The aim would be to prevent blackouts and power cuts.
Europe’s energy crisis and the war in Ukraine
The current unprecedented energy crisis witnessed in Europe cannot be separated from the ongoing war in Ukraine. For many years, Europe relied on the Russian gas supply to get adequate energy to get over the winter months.
However, since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, European countries have implemented restrictions on Russian oil and gas—and have to live with the consequences. The EU is turning to the Middle East and Africa to make up for the shortfall. Some European nations are embracing renewable energy sources.
Switzerland generates 60% of its energy through hydropower. However, the generating power drops during the winter months. To make up for the shortfall, the country usually falls back on neighboring Germany and France.
However, with the current energy crisis, Germany and France are struggling to get enough to meet local demand and it is unlikely that they will have anything left to export.
Earlier in 2022, French multinational electric utility company, Électricité de France S.A. (Electricity of France) recorded its lowest electricity output in about 3 decades following the record number of nuclear reactor shutdowns. Consequently, the company is racing against time to ensure maximum output for the peak of winter.
Facing a looming shortfall of up to 4 gigawatts hours (GWh), Switzerland may have to turn to other neighbors such as Italy and Austria, hoping they will have enough to export. The amount of power these countries can export will depend on how much fossil fuel reserves they have, especially natural gas.
Other strategies to cope with winter energy shortage
While Switzerland is working towards importing electricity from neighboring countries, there are also plans to maximize the available energy. Placing limitations on EV use is only one of the strategies the country wants to use to limit blackouts.
If the condition worsens, the Swiss government may limit the heating of public buildings to 20 degrees Celsius. Also, the citizens may be asked to cut their washing machine use to not more than 40 degrees Celsius.
Peradventure the problem persists further, public shops may have to chop two hours off their opening hours. Theater performances, concerts, and sports matches will remain prohibited during this time.
Winter in some parts of Europe is harsh and running out of power is almost suicidal. An effective heating system is an integral part of surviving extreme cold. The early preparation of the Swiss government is to make sure that the country will not have to deal with the worst-case scenario.