The future of mobility is electric – not only in Switzerland but also across the globe. In March 2023, the EU announced it will ban new sales of conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles from 2035 onwards. In Switzerland, the federal government believes that in 30 years’ time, e-mobility will have firmly established itself as the dominant form of mobility.
To achieve this, the Swiss government recognizes the need to support user- and grid-friendly charging at home, at work or en-route – essentially anywhere at any time. But making EV charging both user-friendly and grid-friendly can often be contradictory, requiring sophisticated solutions that holistically integrate EVs into power systems. While Switzerland is well on its way to making the switch to electric mobility, the alpine country faces unique challenges that make such smart solutions indispensable in its transition.
National strategy starts to pay off for Swiss e-mobility
Many ambitious targets support Switzerland’s goal to advance e-mobility: by the end of 2025, 50% of all newly registered cars should be fully-electric (BEV) or plug-in-hybrid vehicles (PHEV), up from just 17.7% in 2022. By 2035, Swiss e-Mobility wants this share to reach 91-99%. In concrete terms, the number of EVs in the country is expected to rise from 201,000 in 2022 to around 2.8 million electric vehicles by 2035. To be able to charge these vehicles, the number of public EV chargers is expected to almost double in the next two years and then quadruple in the following decade.
The Swiss government has implemented numerous regulatory requirements to reach these goals for widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The Spatial Planning Act was amended, making it mandatory to equip new constructions and major renovations with charging infrastructure. Because decarbonization of the transport sector is contingent on powering EVs with renewables, these goals are complemented by the Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to reduce energy consumption and promote renewable energy. A range of other policies, such as feed-in tariffs, subsidies for photovoltaic (PV) systems or direct marketing, have gradually made renewable generation more economically competitive.
The Swiss government and individual cantons also offer a range of support programs to incentivize the purchase of EVs and implementation of EV charging stations that drive the mobility revolution. The canton of Schaffhausen, for example, subsidizes the purchase of EV passenger cars by up to 2,000 Swiss francs per vehicle. EVs also enjoy reduced vehicle tax, as well as access to environmental zones where combustion engine vehicles face driving restrictions. When it comes to charging infrastructure, the canton of Bern subsidizes the construction of charging stations at companies by up to 60,000 Swiss francs at each location. And through its energieschweiz office, the Swiss government provides municipalities up to 9,000 Swiss francs and regions up to 18,000 Swiss francs to implement e-mobility projects.
The state of charging infrastructure
Swiss e-mobility is therefore kicking into the next gear. But is it enough?
Our EV charging report, which measured the state of charging in early 2023, found that around two-thirds of charge points in Switzerland have a charging capacity between 11 and 22 kW. This larger share of ‘average’ chargers brings down the country’s average charging speed (30kW) to slightly below the European average (33kW). Switzerland also has a lower share of high power chargers (above 100kW) – a 6% share compared to the European average of 7%. Interestingly, the two regions with the highest number of high power chargers per capita (Ticino and Eastern Switzerland) are located in the southern, more mountainous areas – reflecting the heightened need for fast en-route charging here.
When it comes to private charging infrastructure, Switzerland is lagging behind. The current vision is to increase the number of private charge points to two million by 2035. The current state of home charging is a factor that prevents many EV drivers from charging their vehicles at home, or more importantly, from buying an EV in the first place. One major reason is Switzerland’s comparatively low level of home ownership, as the majority of Swiss people live in rented apartments. As such, the expansion of private charging infrastructure is not a natural phenomenon: incentives, as well as planning and investment certaintly are urgently needed to be able to reach the goals set out for the Swiss e-mobility sector.
The need for a varied and widespread charging network
Switzerland’s unique mountainous landscape brings unique challenges to the e-mobility rollout. Using Chargetrip’s spider map, we compared the range of a standard EV (a 62 kWh Nissan Leaf e+) from Interlaken in the center of Switzerland to a departure from Düsseldorf and its flat surrounding area. The difference in range (particularly south of Interlaken in the more mountainous region) is stark.
This makes it even more important for the alpine country to have a widespread network or destination, en-route and home charging options. Only then will range anxiety or charge anxiety be eased and Swiss EV chargers always be able to get where they need to go. But this transformation is not easy to navigate.
The electrification of mobility is transforming the roles of players – electricity providers are entering mobility markets, logistics service providers must plan for increased electricity demand at their sites, charge point operators must ensure seamless charging experiences for their users, and all stakeholders must work much more closely together. Add to this a range of manufacturers that don’t function seamlessly together, changing regulation and constantly emerging use cases (from dynamic tariffs to bidirectional charging to virtual power plants) and staying ahead in the new era of e-mobility becomes near impossible.
Overcoming such complexity and retaining focus on customers and the bottom line is only possible with agile technological platforms that support decentralized services and address new use cases on demand. The Swiss government is already recognizing the potential of technology in accelerating the mobility revolution and shifting its focus towards future-proof solutions that integrate electric vehicles better into power grids.
Integrating electricity and mobility with technology
At the start of 2023, the Energy Commission of the Swiss National Council unanimously voted in favor of abolishing grid fees for electric vehicle batteries. This makes bi-directional charging even more financially attractive and encourages the implementation of vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home technologies – technology that benefits both drivers and the grid. In fact, by charging EV batteries during periods of peak electricity generation and discharging them at times with lower renewable energy supply, an additional 55.3 TWh could be injected into the Swiss power grid between 2020 and 2050. If sold on the electricity market, the value of this additional generation would amount to over one billion euros.
Aside from bidirectional charging, there are many immediate solutions e-mobility players can implement today to make EV charging more seamless, scalable and cost-efficient. Dynamic load management, peak shaving and intelligent EV charging strategies are a few key measures that eliminate the need for expensive grid extensions and minimize grid fees at a site, all while guaranteeing EV drivers a superior charging experience. From a household perspective, EVs are a highly valuable flexible asset. Shifting EV consumption to cheaper prices periods, for example, can drastically lower electricity bills. Or aligning charging with peak PV production can significantly lower emissions. With a smart solution, all of this can be optimized without the driver even thinking about it. The first step to enable these use cases, however, is connecting and controlling all distributed energy resources (assets that produce, store or consume electricity), irrespective of manufacturer.
If new energy services exist as fragmented solutions, users will have fragmented experiences.
According to gridX Account Executive, Irina Milyukhina, it all comes down to integration. “If new energy services exist as fragmented solutions, users will have fragmented experiences,” she says. “Operators and energy providers need one technological platform that addresses both external opportunities and internal enablement. Only then can EV charging be user- and grid-friendly. Combine this with proven experience, industry know-how and tailored product and go-to-market consulting services, and revolutionizing the Swiss e-mobility landscape suddenly becomes an achievable task,” she adds.
Creating a widespread network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the alpine country calls for greater integration between players and technology. We must work together to ensure that EV charging becomes a smooth, attractive experience for all drivers, whether in the city or in the mountains.