Plug-in hybrid, the rest of Switzerland could follow Valais

The canton’s decision to abolish subsidies for Phev hybrids is causing the Confederation to debate. And in Europe too, we are starting to think about new homologation methods

Maurizio Bertera

March 11th

The debate is not new: plug-in hybrid cars (which in Italy, moreover, in the first two years of 2022 are at 4.9 compared to 8.6 for full hybrids and 25.6 for mild hybrids) are not a example of thrift in consumption. Or rather they become a problem when the batteries are at zero. But not only: in this way, it is evident that the CO2 emissions are those of a thermal car, even if “being hybrid” triggers a benevolent eye. But about a year ago, the independent Transport and Environment body had analyzed the real emissions of plug-in hybrids, detecting CO2 emissions higher than declared up to 89% in optimal conditions and up to eight times higher with a flat battery. Obviously, for the average motorist this is not the fundamental element but the expense of the fuel column which never before is a sort of martyrdom, in light of the prices. Paradoxically – or perhaps logically – the only country to have concretely reasoned about how motorists are treated was Switzerland. Small nation, but very rich and without manufacturing houses in the borders. There it is.


To be more precise, the “crime” was limited to Valais: a canton of 350 thousand inhabitants, with Sion as its capital, even if the most famous localities are Zermatt and Crans Montana, due to the ski resorts. In mid-January, based on a study that the local government has entrusted to the company Impact Living (expert in eco-sustainability and energy), it turns out that the amount of CO2 emitted is 2-3 times higher than what is declared by the houses. As a result, the bonuses provided by the Canton of Valais until 31 December 2022 have been revoked, for any plug-in purchased from 1 January: they were worth 2,500 francs or 5,000 depending on whether the model has a smaller or larger tonnage more than 3.5 tons. At the exchange rate they are 2,400 and 4,800 euros: nothing terrible, but the signal is very clear. Without prejudice to two elements that are underestimated in the rest of Europe: a canton like Valais has a higher legislative autonomy than our Regions or the German Land and is guided by a junta with an evident environmentalist orientation. But it is also true that other cantons are thinking of changing the subsidy system, while the federal parliament in Bern is discussing the new legislation on CO2 emissions: some proposals even include a complete ban on this type of vehicle from 2030.


The research conducted by Impact Living nails the Houses and in part the Wltp evaluation system, guilty of evaluating the models when the battery is fully charged, but which in average use are practically never. However, this is not true, as in the homologation cycle a weighted average is made precisely between the two extreme situations. But the author of the research, the engineer Marc Muller, goes down heavily especially towards those who propose them: “They sell you a car that should consume a few liters of fuel, and instead consumes up to three times as much. It’s a rip-off! the fast food restaurants would tell you that a cheeseburger is healthy because it contains a little cucumber. It’s the same thing, they tell us it’s a hybrid car and it consumes less, it’s more ecological, but that’s not true “, he thundered in various media interventions. According to the study, Phev vehicles emit 2 to 3 times more CO2 than claimed by manufacturers. And it happens when the battery is flat, when the internal combustion engine obviously has to bear the weight of the vehicle, increased for electrification. “As for fuel consumption, 80% of ‘regular drivers’ consume 4 to 6 liters per 100 km for a car that should only consume 2 liters per 100 km,” adds Muller.

STUDY GROUP – How to solve the problem? By abolishing the PHEVs? Although strict, Muller has an aperturist vision. “It makes no sense to take them off the market, if anything it is correct that these vehicles are presented as very energy efficient and able to contribute to the reduction of emissions. In reality, they are modified petrol vehicles, which distract from the real goal of a sustainable mobility and ultimately limit the spread of electric cars. I believe that the homologation criteria must be changed so that real consumption values ​​are considered as the real reference point, and Phevs are taxed for their real emissions of CO2 “. We are only at the beginning of the catchphrase even if for the Reuters Agency, the European Union is already working on a modification to the Wltp protocol. There is a working group that aims to introduce a new “utility factor” (quota guided in electric mode with respect to the total distance), which takes into account the data collected through the Obfcm (On-Board Fuel Consumption Monitoring) system which stores the data on real consumption and is mandatory from 1 January 2021 on all newly registered vehicles.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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