At full throttle towards "net zero"

The think tank Avenir Suisse today presented its latest publication entitled "Sustainable Powertrain Technologies". The key message is clear: an openness towards different technologies is needed to achieve the climate goal of "net zero" – meaning CO2 emissions – by the year 2050. Among the authors are Peter Richner and Christian Bach from Empa.
Photo: David Becker / Unsplash

According to the Federal Council, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced to zero net by 2050. To achieve this goal, motorized road traffic will have to undergo fundamental changes. Avenir Suisse has investigated which technical, economic and political measures need to be implemented to reduce CO2 emissions as efficiently as possible. The think tank was supported in this effort by Peter Richner, Deputy Director of Empa, and Christian Bach, Head of the Automotive Powertrain Technologies Laboratory.

In their contributions, both of them point out that focusing on a specific drive technology cannot be the solution. Rather, mobility must be viewed in the context of the entire energy system. The expansion of renewable energy sources automatically leads to a strong fluctuation in energy production: renewable electricity is not always generated where and when it is needed. There are peaks that put a strain on the grid, and it needs storage so that the energy is not lost. Mobility can support the overall energy system by converting excess electricity into fuels and thus enabling its use – in the form of hydrogen or so-called synfuels, synthetic substitute fuels for gas, diesel and petrol vehicles. At Empa, this technology-neutral approach is being demonstrated, for example, in the mobility demonstrator "move", where not only electric vehicles but also hydrogen and gas vehicles can fill up with renewable fuels.

Technology-neutral regulation

In the publication of Avenir Suisse, the topic is not only illuminated from a technological perspective. Morten Hannesbo, CEO of Amag, Switzerland's largest car importer, and Vice President of the Auto Schweiz industry association, explains the market environment in an interview. The economic significance of motorized road traffic is presented by Avenir Suisse's research directors Patrick Dümmler and Jürg Müller. In their contribution, they outline measures to achieve an efficient and effective reduction of CO2 emissions. Finally, Peter Grünenfelder, Director of the think tank, draws the political conclusions from the technical and economic assessment. He too ultimately concludes that a holistic view is necessary and calls for regulation that is open to technology.