The European Union voted: from 2035, the sale of thermal cars (total or hybrid) will be banned in Europe. Therefore, a 100% electric future is looming, unless the revision clause planned for 2026 changes the situation.
Even admitting that the electric car is not the magic solution, I was still thinking at the beginning of the year to exchange my thermal vehicle for an electric model, my rental agreement with option to buy ends in December 2022.
So I started to get interested in different models. From Tesla to Peugeot via Hyundai. My job allowed me to test some models for several days, under real conditions. Ultimately, I don’t trade my thermal vehicle for an electric one. I will tell you why.
Electric car prices soared
When buying my previous vehicle (in 2019), I was tempted by an electric model. At the time, prices were already higher than those of a thermal model, but the fuel economy made navigation possible in the long term. And that’s not to mention the greatly reduced maintenance costs. Unfortunately my finances did not allow me to pay more than 30,000 euros for the model that suited me at the time (Tesla Model 3).
As the years go by, my frustration grows. Although my personal finances allowed me to buy this Model 3 today, its price has increased considerably. So much so that the maximum ecological bonus (for vehicles under 45,000 euros) is no longer taken into account. A Model 3, with no option, now costs more than 50,000 euros against less than 40,000 last year!
So I looked at other manufacturers. Very quickly the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (voted the best vehicle of the year) left the game. Its price: more than 45,000 euros in the basic offer. No 6,000 euro eco bonus (apart from the base model which doesn’t suit me) and therefore out of budget.
I’ve done this with dozens of models, always with the same conclusion: prices have ballooned so much that it was impossible for me to consider a purchase when my finances allowed me to do so at last year’s prices.
The only models that fit my budget (but already comfortable for a vehicle) are city cars like the Peugeot e208, the best-selling model in France this year. Problem: its low autonomy and size do not allow me to make it my main vehicle. I have a baby so I need space in the back and also in the trunk (parents know).
So I considered keeping my current thermal vehicle (for long trips) and making the Peugeot e208 the second vehicle in my house, for short trips. But the price of an electric city car intended to serve as a second vehicle is, in all transparency, prohibitive.
For the time being, therefore, it seems that the electric car is not within the reach of a couple with the right salaries (two executives with 15 years of experience) who live in the Province (Amiens campaign) with a small child. And that’s even taking into account fuel economy, which represents a nevertheless significant monthly budget.
Let’s talk numbers: my current thermal vehicle costs me 250 euros per month (in LOA). My partner’s business trips and our personal trips (pretty rare) cost us 400 euros a month (budget exploded to 600 euros when gasoline was 2 euros per litre).
Even taking into account the current price of fuel, we ended up with a budget of 650 euros per month. Taking the example of the Ioniq 5 (a model comparable in size and range to my current vehicle), the value of the long-term rental would be 540 euros per month with an initial contribution of 6,000 euros. If we smooth out this 6,000 euros over the 60 months of rental (chosen during setup), we arrive at 640 euros per month. And we don’t count the cost of energy here.
So yes, the choice of electric is also an eco-friendly approach, at least as far as I’m concerned. However, my commitment is meant to be pragmatic: I can’t risk my family’s financial balance (especially with a small child) for a car.
This is all the more true as electricity is not exempt from any reproach in terms of ecology: the extraction of rare metals for the manufacture of batteries is a disaster, production in Chinese coal plants is also harmful, and electric is only viable if the electricity is produced cleanly. But this is another subject.
Autonomy and recharge: two problems to solve (and quickly)
Let’s assume that electric vehicle prices drop in the next few months (which seems impossible, let’s be honest). Even if that were the case, two other problems are holding me back in my transition: autonomy and accountability.
I had the opportunity to try out several electric vehicles for the Auto section of Presse-citron. For all, the conclusion was the same: autonomy and recharging pose major problems for long journeys. For everyday life, and under certain conditions, electric can be relevant. But it is important to understand that several criteria must be met.
Let’s talk about autonomy first. If you use your car to get around, range is not an issue. On average, a Frenchman travels 54 km a day for his work-from-home journey, according to a Tesla representative. Knowing that a vehicle connected to a conventional socket travels 100 to 150 km between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am, you are guaranteed to always have a full battery, and at a lower cost.
First problem: not everyone can start the car every night. If you live in an apartment in the city center (even in the Province) it can be tricky. If in Paris the old Autolib charging stations can be used, this is not the case everywhere. So unless you rent an underground parking space with a charging station, it will be destroyed. You will have to find a public terminal as close to your home as possible, which can quickly become a nuisance.
In contrast, if you have a detached house with a garage, that’s a big yes. You get home from work, park your car, plug it in, and you’re ready for 12 hours of charging. You can even have an individual dock installed with fast charging. The great luxury.
The hassle of long journeys
For long trips, it’s an entirely different matter. The network of charging stations is still scarce. Outside the main highways, terminals are difficult to find. Also, as I explained in my test of the latest Renault Mégane E-Tech, the charging station market is a real wild west.
To recharge your car on a long trip, you will need multiple payment cards, multiple mobile apps, and even if universal cards exist, they are not always compatible.
Above all, you will quickly find that the cost of recharging on the road is more expensive than a full tank of gas. For example, at Ionity, it is not uncommon to pay around forty euros to recharge a Megane type vehicle. But to travel 250 to 300 kilometers at most.
You will also find that at certain times (especially holidays) charging stations are taken by storm. And since a charge takes an average of 20 minutes, you don’t end up falling behind on your journey if your station is crowded. As a symbol, Renault offers electric Méganes owners the option of renting a thermal model at a preferential price when they want to go on long journeys.
Aside from the price, all these brakes led me to tell myself that the infrastructure was not yet ready to allow me to use an electric car on a day-to-day basis. And that, even if I live in a few months in a detached house with a garage. My main problem is that my household has only one vehicle and that I consider myself entitled to fully enjoy it (that is, also when I want to make long trips) taking into account the price of that vehicle.
Why not the rechargeable hybrid?
In my reflection on buying (or rather renting) an electric car, I realized that this transition was not for now. In any case, democratization will not occur until 2035 unless plans change.
Because the challenges to be overcome are immense. First, we’ll have to find a way to sell electric vehicles cheaper, figure out how to fill charging stations with electricity. According to Thierry Breton, European Commissioner, charging stations will require 15% more electricity compared to our current consumption. However, the energy crisis shows us that we must transform our consumption models. And these are just a few examples in the ocean of trials to overcome.
In the meantime, as I cannot buy an electric car and the infrastructure is not yet viable for my use, which vehicle will I buy?
My ecological commitment (I am not a committed activist but I try to do my best) leads me to replace my gasoline vehicle with a more virtuous model. And while I had resigned myself to keeping my car on gas for a few more years, I was led to write an article about the drop in sales of plug-in hybrids.
According to experts, if these vehicles are no longer sold, it is because they are neither ecological nor economical. In reality, these vehicles are mainly sold to companies. However, users of company vehicles often have a petrol card (the famous GR card) which allows them to refuel at the company’s expense. As a result, they almost never recharge their plug-in hybrid. As a result, as the vehicle is heavier (because of the battery), consumption is higher.
When studying this file, I realized that the plug-in hybrid was perhaps the right solution for a smooth and pragmatic transition. By exploring the concept well, the hybrid currently combines the best of both worlds.
With the electric motor (which we mainly use in urban areas), we pollute less and save money. With the combustion engine, you can travel long distances without fear of running out of fuel, the high cost of refills or long hours of waiting in motorway service areas.
So yes, plug-in hybrids are more expensive than thermal models, but the savings in fuel consumption also make up for it. Some of our readers explain that they consume less than 2 liters per 100 kilometers with their plug-in hybrid vehicle.
If this solution is not perfect, it at least has the merit of polluting less and saving money. In the next three to five years, the rechargeable hybrid may still be of interest. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, it seems like a good compromise, while waiting for better. But that’s just my opinion.