CERN’s automobile fleet turns a brighter shade of green

CERN is partnering with Services Industriels de Genève (SIG) in an environmentally friendly initiative to acquire cars running on natural gas. The first forty vehicles will arrive at CERN around mid-February, and enter service in March.


On 3 February 2011 CERN, represented by Steve Myers at the FEDRE Forum, was awarded the mobility prize.

CERN currently has approximately 800 vehicles in use at its different sites. Véronique Marchal, head of Site Services in the GS Department, explains: “Our fleet includes a great variety of vehicles, from small Category A cars for staff to utility/transport vehicles. The decision to acquire cars running on natural gas is part of our strategy of diversifying CERN's automobile fleet so as to make it more environmentally friendly.”

The new cars are actually bi-fuel, which means that they will have two tanks: one for regular fuel and one for compressed natural gas (CNG). “This kind of car is a little more expensive than a conventionally fuelled one. However, by using CNG we are making a significant contribution towards reducing the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere. It helps that the partnership with SIG makes us eligible for subsidies, thereby lowering the overall cost of the initiative,” notes Véronique Marchal.

Car users will be free to choose between CNG and regular petrol, but the default setting will be for CNG. “To make life easier for car users from CERN, SIG have installed a CNG filling station at the BP station on the route du Nant d'Avril, some three kilometres from CERN," she adds. ”CERN’s regular petrol station will remain at their disposal, but we are counting on their environmental awareness to use CNG whenever possible."

One of the new CERN cars using natural gas, on display at the FEDRE 2011 Forum.

From an ecological standpoint, CNG is clearly more environmentally friendly than petrol. “With CNG, carbon dioxide emissions are 25% to 30% lower than with petrol, while carbon monoxide emissions are cut by fully 70%,” points out Serge Micallef, who is in charge of industrial clients at SIG and responsible for the partnership project with CERN. ”Soot particles are almost eliminated. Overall, gas pollutants are 50% to 70% lower than for petrol." Another consideration is that 10% of the natural gas in the Swiss supply is renewable biogas. Biogas, consisting essentially of a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, is produced by allowing organic matter, of plant or animal origin, to undergo anaerobic fermentation.

CERN is the only international organisation to have a cooperation arrangement of this type with SIG, and will be receiving its first 40 vehicles in the second half of February. SIG publicly presented the project at its stand at the 1-4 February 2011 FEDRE forum, with a display featuring a CNG car bearing the CERN logo. Twenty cars will be on display at a press conference organised on 24 February at the Globe.

A full-scale presentation of the SIG green mobility project will take place during the press days (1 and 2 March) that precede the opening of the Geneva International Motor Show from 3 to 13 March 2011 at Palexpo.

by Anaïs Vernède