Thermal cars vs electric cars, why it’s a fake fight

Let’s stop pitting thermal cars against electric cars. Electric cars are undeniably better than their thermal cousins ​​when it comes to impacting the environment. But is this really the solution to the current ecological crisis?

Source: Prometheus on Unsplash

Rarely has a technological issue generated as much debate as electric cars. As we head into that future, it’s important to consider the implications this has, and whether leaning so blindly towards electric cars is actually a good thing. We promise that this article is not a story about Elon Musk, or Tesla, or a controversial position where ” oil would be really good for us “.

What if the electric car was not the announced revolution?

Electric cars are sometimes heralded as a revolution; saviors of our addiction to gasoline and pillars in the fight for a more sustainable world. They have the potential to dramatically improve public health and reduce ecological damage. Even the economy sees this as a salvation: electric vehicles would be the next frontier for start-ups and disproportionate returns from large groups.

Promises were made, billions were allocated by traditional manufacturers, and dozens of startups were launched in an effort to capture additional billions. It seems that the adoption of electric vehicles is inevitable.

if, in Frandroid, we support electric cars in their quest to overtake thermal cars, I temper this enthusiasm for their prospects in society at large. From an environmental point of view, there is nothing functionally different between an electric car and a thermal car.

The relationship is the same, and it is unmistakably environmentally destructive. Cars, as powerful as they are, are not good for the environment, they force a dependency infrastructure that is also financially bad and dangerous for us.

To build a more sustainable future and a better world for humanity, we need to address the fundamental questions that have brought us here. Yes, electric cars are less emitters than thermal cars. But the energy that emits the least is the one we don’t consume.

Two billion cars by 2035

As the electric vehicle market is growing, the car market in general is also growing. By 2035, nearly two billion cars will be on the road worldwide. This presents significant challenges. In 2010, 14% of global emissions came from transport. Total emissions have continued to rise over the past decade, with the share of transport accelerating proportionately. This is crucial, because if we want to limit global warming, that means we have to reduce our total emissions.

If we don’t, we are heading for disaster. Even if all cars were electric by 2035 and all production were carbon neutral (which is impossible), we would only reduce global emissions by a maximum of 20%, well below the expected 55%.

We are comparing electric cars with thermal cars, but that is not what should interest us. Instead, we need to compare development models. This distinction is essential, because development plans must include new emissions from cars, but also new construction, existing buildings, infrastructure, and so on.

Simply switching to electric cars does not solve the underlying cause

The challenge we face is clear: not only do we need to transition to cleaner vehicles, we also need to transition to more respectful environments in general. Simply switching to electric cars does nothing to address the underlying cause. And you can know what I’ve been talking about all along. Obviously I’m talking about our private cars.

Cars need roads to drive on. Is obvious. But what’s less obvious is the extent to which roads (and cars) dictate how our environment is built. In essence, we created a world built around cars first, with people, environment, wildlife, atmosphere, and pretty much everything else in the background. In deciding to build for cars first, we ceded much of our environment to them.

You will tell me… but do we have a choice? It’s a perverse system. As our cities expand and grow, we are left without access to essential services such as schools, businesses and doctors. If you live 30 minutes from the city center and there is not necessarily public transport nearby, you have no choice but to go everywhere by car. This maintains and promotes dependency.

The more time passes, the more our cities expand, as this map of Bordeaux shows (source: Aurba)

As the current shortage of gasoline shows, barriers have been erected to make it nearly impossible to reverse our addiction to cars. Our world is hostage.

Let’s suspend reality for a moment and imagine that electric cars would solve all climate problems on their own. This reasoning assumes that environmental impact is the only problem. As promising as it is, it only tells part of the story.

Building a world around cars poses dangers for all of us. 1.35 million people worldwide die in car accidents every year. It is unacceptable, but for some reason it is accepted. We can’t do anything about it, we have the same fatalism we would have in the face of a natural disaster. Whether electric or thermal, autonomous or not, the car will keep killing.

And if they don’t do it because of a crash, an indirect collision or reckless driving, they do it more perniciously by harm to health and with equally devastating consequences. Obesity, diabetes, lung disease (due to pollution), heart disease or any other ailments are associated with this sedentary lifestyle.

Evolution of obesity in France from 1981 to 2016 (source: Wikipedia)

A corollary of the deterioration of our physical health is that of our mental health. In fact, in the car, spontaneous interactions are reduced to almost zero. Every meeting must be planned. In addition, we develop defensive mindsets. Not to mention those who cannot drive or cannot afford the expenses associated with owning a car. Especially since the price of electric cars is excessively high. This is a vector of profound injustice.

All these questions arise from a series of choices that do not put us at the center of our decisions. Electric cars not only fail to solve these many pressing threats on their own, they exacerbate them through the perpetuation of a flawed system. Replacing electric cars with thermal cars does not change the underlying development model.

We need to fight the causes

Instead of walking idly by thinking electric cars will save us, we need to tackle the causes of the evil that is eating away at our world. Yes, we must invest in sustainable and clean cars. But we must also facilitate micromobility solutions (such as bicycles, scooters and public transport). All these solutions can be green. Most importantly, we must make it safe and possible to walk where necessary. So above all, we have to stop building car-dependent development models. Ultimately, all these changes must be based on the use of sustainable technologies and standards.

If the switch to electric cars is a step in the right direction, it’s just a step. We can make significant changes, but we have to be brave enough to do so.

Boosted, Frandroid's New 100% Electric Cars Podcast

Survoltés is a new Frandroid program in the electric car. For this first episode, we put our feet on the plate. Are electric cars more environmentally friendly than thermal and hybrid cars?
See More information


To follow us, we invite you to download our app for Android and iOS. You can read our articles, archives and watch our latest YouTube videos.

Leave a Comment