Electromobility of the future: is Switzerland ready for bidirectional charging?

Electric cars could soon be part of a secure power supply by feeding surplus energy into our grid. Find out where Switzerland stands in this development. Five questions for e-mobility expert Volker Fröse.

07.03.2024

  • Sustainability

Mr Fröse, how long will it take for bidirectional charging with motor vehicles to become established in Switzerland?

Volker Fröse: “First and foremost, it’s important to remember that electromobility doesn’t just mean vehicles running on a different fuel: these vehicles actually become part of the energy system. Bidirectional charging gives Switzerland a gigantic virtual reservoir. We can’t afford not to make use of this storage capacity. Bidirectional will become the standard: the batteries have long been ready, the only question is when the rest of the technology will be. It’ll probably happen faster than we think.”

What regulatory changes have to be made in Switzerland so that bidirectional charging becomes the standard (depending on the powers that be)?

“Before we can connect this big ‘reservoir’ to the grid, we need to make some changes at national level, which will also involve technical adjustments. This will take time unfortunately, which is annoying. Before that happens, important framework conditions will be put in place with the so-called ‘Mantelerlass’ – the legislation on renewable energies which we will be voting on on 9 June. Local associations for shared energy consumption (ZEV) will be possible beyond the individual home. Even if e-cars are not explicitly mentioned in this new legislation, it lays down essential groundwork.”

A unique test

This is the first large-scale test of its kind. From September 2022 to March 2024, some 50 “Honda e” vehicles were available at 40 Mobility stations across Switzerland. For the first time, mass-produced electric vehicles with bidirectional charging were available for use throughout the country for day-to-day journeys.

How the test model compares internationally:

  • So far, no comparable test has been carried out using 50 vehicles: other projects use a much smaller number
  • 40 stations distributed across the entire country – until now tests have been limited to a single site or city
  • The test model uses certified series products in normal operation (charging station and vehicle based on CCS) – no trained users, laboratory operation or prototypes
  • The flexibility of electric power is offered simultaneously to three different types of user (grid regulation, local distribution system operators (EVUs) and the ZEVs – previously, testing was only ever carried out with single user.

Who is to drive forward bidirectional charging with vehicles? Should it be the manufacturers, the importers, the energy supply companies, private individuals, the municipal authorities, the cantons or the federal government?

“Everyone can start on a small scale right away. “Vehicle to Home” (V2H) enables people to use an electric car to ‘save’ photovoltaic electricity going into the night. This makes sensebecause the battery is also the car. This system already works within a ZEV. Now we need more cars that allow bidirectional charging. Renault and VW have announced new models, and we can expect surprises from China. This means that charging stations will become more affordable, too. I think it’ll be important for fleet operators to set an example here. That will create a sense of trust.”

Electricity companies are currently appearing on the market in various roles, e.g. as developers of charging infrastructure, as distribution network operators and – most recently – as car sharing providers. How do you assess the situation?

“The electricity supply companies are in a comfortable position: as public entities with guaranteed income and long-term amortisation periods, they can do a lot of experimenting and take risks. This made perfect sense in the initial phase of e-mobility because there was virtually nobody else who was able to invest in charging stations. But in my view the public sector should exercise restraint or even withdraw entirely wherever there are private providers offering these services. Otherwise there’ll be an imbalance. It cannot and must not be the case that publicly owned electricity companies compete with private providers.”

Could electrification lead to a misuse of structures in the market? Where Mobility is up against state-owned companies, the playing field is not level. Is this a problem for Mobility?

“Definitely! Public companies generally have a legal mandate that regulates their area of activity, and this mandate is often interpreted very generously. As long as there is no private-sector competition, this makes perfect sense and benefits the public. Unfortunately, it is then difficult for state-owned companies to withdraw from competition when they’re no longer needed. This is unwelcome from an entrepreneurial point of view: after all, you’ve built something up. But it’s been done with public funds, which is a significant advantage. If a state-owned company offers schemes that are already soundly in place on the market and there is no monopoly problem, that’s a no-go in my view.”



Alexandra Stäuble spoke to Volker Fröse.
Source: Portrait of Volker Fröse: ZFV

Your browser version is no longer supported

Update your browser or use an alternative. We recommend using Google Chrome, Safari, Edge or Firefox.