why the electric car is struggling to impose itself

Although the “ecological bonus” is increased from €6,000 to €7,000 for half of French families who buy an electric car, will this incentive be enough to convince drivers? There still seem to be many barriers to purchase.

Laurine has been in line for 30 minutes at a Total station in Caen to fill up with diesel. she has it”tired of waiting, waking up earlier or coming home later“. But when asked if she is tempted to switch to an electric vehicle, the answer is clear: “no, it’s too expensive and there aren’t many charging stations!“.

However, the private vehicle market is undergoing a transformation. The European Parliament voted June 8, 2022, the end of sales of new thermal cars in 2035an important step towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

In Normandy, in order to limit sources of air pollution, the most polluting vehicles have been banned from driving in Rouen and 12 other municipalities in the agglomeration since Thursday, September 1, 2022. Vehicles with Crit’Air stickers greater than 3 are no longer allowed to drive. The agglomeration of Le Havre and the urban community of Caen la mer are working on the implementation of this system in 2025.

Olivier is a kitchen boy in Canteleu (76). For years he got into the habit of driving there from his home in Amfreville-la-Mi-Voie (76). A daily life in which the 51-year-old man will have to draw a line because since September 1 he can no longer use his vehicle. Old in 1999 and classified as Crit’Air 5, his car is normally banned in Rouen and the 12 municipalities that surround it, even if a tolerance is planned until March 2023. However, he tested his journey in public transport: it takes 1 hour by bus versus 20 minutes by car and in the morning there aren’t many buses and I have to take two to get to my destination launch the last.

And there is no doubt for him to break the law after the grace period, because in the absence of a Crit’Air patch or a patch greater than 3, he runs the risk of fine of 68 euros. His car will stop at the junkyard: “is old and unsaleable”. With a modest income, he doesn’t plan on buying a new car, but perhaps moving to Canteleu, a city unaffected by the measure.

The Region has many rural areas and, although imperfect, a certain correlation emerges: the lower the standard of living of the inhabitants of a municipality, the greater the proportion of vehicles prohibited in the ZFE. Indeed, Low-income families are often unable to replace their old vehicle with a newer one that meets the ZFE criteria, let alone an electric motor. It takes between 18,000 and 65,000 euros for a new electric vehicle.

The most polluting cars are gradually disappearing

Today, cars with the Crit’air 2 badge drive the most on Normandy roads, followed by those with a Crit’air 3 sticker.

In 2011, Crit’air 3, 4 and unclassified cars were the majority in the territory. It is from 2013 and more significantly from 2014 onwards that the most polluting cars gradually disappear. The trend is reversed in 2018, Crit’air 2 are well ahead.

In the Region, crit’air 1 cars are on the rise. This measure by ZFE encourages drivers who do not meet the standards to change vehicles quickly. Result: it’s the rush at the dealerships in the city center of Rouen. At Toyota, for example, a customer wants to change his old car quickly. This has been the case for one in two customers since the start of the summer. But they are mainly looking for used cars.


“Currently with my vehicle I’m on Crit’air 4, so I’m banned from driving in and around Rouen”
, explains the customer. He is not the only one, especially given the price and delivery times of new cars. Opportunities appear as the only solution.

“We really feel that drivers in the Rouen area are looking for less polluting vehicles, but the new ones are still too expensive for them”confirms Baptiste Marie, Toyota sales consultant.

Gasoline and diesel cars continue to be the majority

In fact, gasoline and diesel cars are still the majority. In 2021, diesel engines account for 1,225,306 vehicles in circulation in Normandy. The number is 775,783 for gasoline.

Electric and hybrid vehicles are of interest to the Normans as of 2017 with more than 4,500 cars in circulation in total. In 2021, there are more than 18,000. Engine types that still lag far behind diesel and gasoline engines.

The electric car: the problem of cost and ignorance

Today, the French car fleet is entering a phase of massive electrification. This is also one of the great themes of the Paris Motor Show. de Paris, which takes place from Monday 17 to Sunday 23 October 2022 at Parc Expo-Porte de Versailles.

Etienne Balmier is a car-sharing dealership manager and electric vehicle specialist at Renault Retail Group Caen. he thinks that the electric Zoé has been on the market for 10 years but is struggling to take off in the market : “we are doing about 25 tests a week on this vehicle at the moment, but it is not enough”. The question of price arises: “we often hear customers say it’s too expensive”. But the professional points the finger ignorance of this engine : “Customers often come by word of mouth, they know someone who drives electric. It’s very comfortable, doesn’t make any noise, and you can use it every day to go home and work without worries.”

The question of charging stations also arises repeatedly:

you know that 95% of electric vehicle users charge at home. Simply plug into a 230 volt outlet, no adapter needed

Etienne Balmier, car-sharing concessions administrator and electric vehicle specialist at Renault Retail Group Caen

Individuals can also install a terminal at home. It takes about 15 hours for a recharge. Price level, he explains that: “Recharging to travel 300 km costs €10 at home but €40 with a fast charging station and for combustion, it’s €30”.

And when we talked to him about rising electricity pricesEtienne Balmier responds that: “domestic charging is still protected by the tariff shield”. Indeed, the government capped the rise in electricity prices to 4% in 2022 and 15% in February 2023. Regarding public terminals: “We estimate an increase of around 50%, but there are many different scenarios” according to Clément Molizon, general delegate of Avere (National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility).


The charging station puzzle

The fastest electric terminal in France saw the light of day on 22 September in Douains, near Vernon (Eure), next to the A13 motorway. According to its operator, Kallista Energy, it can fully charge a car in 20 minutes. Provided, of course, you have the vehicle suitable for fast charging.

With vehicles with an average range of 450 kilometers, accessible charging points can become a real headache for an electric vehicle driver. In Normandy, there are, on average, 97 charging points open to the public per 100,000 inhabitants. The charging time of an electric car depends on several factors: the model of the vehicle, the capacity of its battery, the power of the charging station used and finally the state of charge of the battery. Thus, charging time can vary from 30 minutes to several hours.

The current development of charging infrastructures must be continued and reinforced because the concern with charging is still a brake on the adoption of electric vehicles. Local authorities therefore have a role to play in planning the deployment of charging infrastructure with the right energy in the right place. For daily travel, it is necessary to promote the implementation of domestic charging (particularly in collective accommodation) and in businesses, as well as the implementation of a more extensive network of simple and robust charging stations. “normal” especially for charging in the city and at night.

Electric vehicle: cleaner?

For Etienne Balmier it is in fact a cleaner vehicle that consumes less: “we are at 12 kWh per 100 km while a thermal car is at 60 kWh per 100 km, the carbon footprint is much more respected”.

But what to do with the battery when it is changed? “You should know that a battery allows 1,000/1,500 recharges. That’s 300,000 kilometers”. And once completely worn out: “We can recycle it to, for example, store electricity at home, it is practical for those who have solar panels”.

On his side, the ademe, hasecological transition agency, explains that compared to a compact diesel sedan, the carbon debt is repaid after around 15,000 km for a small city-type electric vehicle, while it is only repaid after 100,000 km for a high-end electric SUV.

Indeed, the carbon impact of an electric vehicle increases almost proportionally to its weight, itself heavily impacted by the storage capacity of its battery. Therefore, it is advisable to choose a battery suitable for the majority of the vehicle’s use (for example, daily domestic work), selecting a vehicle model that is as small and light as possible, which is capable of offering the greatest autonomy from this battery capacity.

Help to help families change cars

In France, various aids are available for purchasing an electric vehicle, but they are subject to under certain conditions.

To allow the exchange of vehicles for a less polluting model, the Metropolis of Rouen Normandy, the department and the State offer help and bonuses for conversion. Its value can reach 5,000 euros for metropolitan aid and 4,000 euros for the departmental part, depending on your income.

But these aids are “reckless” for the automobile association. “The metropolis pays 5,000 euros and the state 4,000 euros except that the cheapest electric car is the Dacia, which is 19,000 euros”.

The State also offers aid, in the form of a 30% tax credit, for the equipping of a domestic charging station.

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