Quickly by car to the city, to work, on vacation: Being mobile is part of our habits, part of our comfort and it is difficult for us to make do without it. That is why we are glad that technology is bringing more and more climate-friendly alternatives to conventional cars onto the market. In this way, we can sit back and continue living as we have done so far, right?
By now there is agreement, at least in theory, that the future of mobility cannot lie in oil, natural gas or coal. What a world in which mobility works entirely without fossil fuels should look like, however, is uncertain. Certainly, there are different approaches: Research is increasingly focusing on alternatives such as hydrogen, hybrid or electric vehicles and is trying to optimize gasoline, diesel and gas engines. What is clear, however, is that the achievements of technology alone are no longer sufficient to reduce emissions quickly and far enough – it is simply too late for this. It is up to each and every one of us to adapt our lifestyles. After all, households, industry and the heating sector have been able to reduce CO2 emissions while emissions in the transport sector are rising steadily.
Let’s take a look at the Swiss roads: Not only during peak hours, but practically all day long, motorways are particularly busy, with private leisure traffic continuing to increase. In most cases, the driver is traveling alone with two tons of sheet metal. Since 1980, the average weight of cars has doubled while the weight of drivers has remained the same. This has been particularly profitable for the car industry – with heavy losses for the wallet and even more damaging for the climate! For the heavier the car, the more material it uses and the more fuel it consumes for every kilometre.
What about the electric cars that are increasingly being found on the roads? First of all, you must be aware that just because something does not directly emit CO2 into the atmosphere, it is not immediately climate friendly. This applies to both green avocados and e-cars. In the same way that the avocado does not cross the Atlantic into Switzerland on its own, it does little for the climate if the electricity in our Tesla comes from coal-fired power stations, nuclear power stations or other sources of non-renewable energy. Not to mention the unsustainable mining of cobalt and lithium, which are currently indispensable for the construction of batteries. While “only” two to three grams are needed to build a mobile phone battery, the construction of e-cars is a matter of kilos. In addition, the limited occurrence of cobalt and lithium is particularly high in fragile countries, and child labour is sometimes even used to reduce mining costs as cheaply as possible.
This shows us very clearly that new technologies in mobility and the good intention to drive an e-car do not bring much, if no sustainable operations are carried out in the background. The same applies to the fuel used in e-cars: zero CO2 emissions from the exhaust pipe will only really benefit the climate if the electricity comes from sustainable sources.
In Switzerland, only 61% of electrical energy comes from renewable sources (60% hydro power, 1% sun and wind). In terms of the total energy consumed in Switzerland, this amounts to only 15%. With this, it is impossible to supply mobility as it exists today. In total, two thirds of Switzerland’s energy consumption still come from fossil fuels, with more than one third of Switzerland’s total energy consumption coming from transport. In order to master this challenge, we need new technologies, as well as the willingness of everyone to adapt his or her behaviour in the field of mobility.
Consequently, we must not sit back and relax. As long as our energy sources are not fundamentally sustainable, it is up to us to act in accordance with the climate. This means in concrete terms that we always take the train instead of the car or even the plane, preferably even the bicycle, whenever possible. Instead of buying our own car, we use offers that make it possible to share vehicles. In general, we try to cover as few kilometres as possible and in a small, light car. When we buy food, we pay attention to the distance travelled. But we also remain open to alternatives to conventional or electric cars in research, because it is not yet clear which one will be the best solution.
Sustainable resources and energy: a crystal-clear demand that we can carry to the polls with our right to vote, support with our money and advance with our commitment. Without phasing out nuclear energy and promoting sustainable energies, it is not enough to rely on e-cars and take the train from time to time. Because without a change in the energy system, a change in mobility is unfortunately of little use.