In 2018, the average fuel consumption of newly registered cars in Switzerland rose by 3.6% compared to the year before.
An average new car in 2018 consumes 6.08 litres per 100 km compared to the year before when it was 5.87 litres per 100 km. Average emissions for the same average new car in 2018 were 137.8 g of CO2/km, compared to 134.1 g CO2/km in 2017.
In 2018, 301,000 new cars hit Swiss roads.
The rise in fuel consumption and emissions was partly driven by a shift away from diesel cars, once prized for their more efficient lower emission engines but now vilified for their higher particulate and nitrous oxide emissions. In 2018, the percentage of diesels among newly registered cars fell from 36.2% to 30.3%.
More 4×4 vehicles was another contributor to the rising average fuel consumption and emissions of new cars, according to the government.
The percentage of electric or partially electric cars rose slightly from 2.7% to 3.2%. This helped to attenuate the rise in calculated emissions, although the calculations related to these vehicles are wanting. Electricity emissions are assumed to be zero. This is flawed.
A Tesla 90D Model S running on power produced by the UK’s most polluting coal power station emits more per kilometre than an Audi A7 3.0 TDI running on diesel. Electricity grids span multiple countries and power is fungible. If the extra electricity used to power electric cars delayed the shutdown of the dirtiest bits of international power grids then their effective contribution to emissions would be high.
Looking at the cleanliness of the electricity produced within Switzerland misses the big picture. Electricity flows across borders. Switzerland constantly imports and exports electricity. Some of what is produced in the south is exported to Italy and some of what is consumed in the north is imported from Germany – see current cross-border flows. The more clean energy Switzerland has left to export the less dirty stuff will be generated in other parts of Europe. And, the less it imports the less dirty generation there will be abroad. The idea that electricity must be produced and consumed within national borders exists only in people’s minds with a few exceptions, such as in some geographically or politically isolated nations.
Once we have cleaned up international electricity production, electric cars are clearly part of the solution. Until then their emissions contribution is complex and mixed but not zero.