Is it contradictory to promote the electric car in a period of energy sobriety?

“Making the electric car accessible to everyone”🇧🇷 This is the purpose of the plan revealed by Emmanuel Macron in a daily interview the echoes published on October 17, 2022. Financial aid, reinforcement of “European preference” or even a tariff shield at charging stations… There are many incentives to encourage consumers to use this type of vehicle.

In a context of encouraging energy savings, this desire for democratization questions Claude, one of our readers who lives in Landeleau (Finistère). “Why encourage the sale of electric cars when the French are asked to save on consumption? 🇧🇷

Why are public authorities encouraging people to switch to electric cars? What is its ecological impact? Ouest-France responds to you 🇧🇷

A negative environmental impact upstream

State incentives to push consumers towards electric vehicles are not new. In 2015, the government offered a €10,000 bonus for the purchase of this type of vehicle. The goal ? Gradually reduce the number of thermal vehicles until their complete disappearance. A goal reaffirmed by the European Union (EU) which recently banned the sale of heat engines by 2035.

It is worth remembering that the latter, due to their operation linked to fossil fuels, are responsible for polluting emissions that contribute to global warming. This decision, and the incentives to go electric, are therefore more generally part of an emissions reduction policy, with carbon neutrality in sight by 2050.

However, several voices are raised to denounce the negative environmental impact of the electric car. As we explained in an article published a few months ago, the manufacture of these vehicles is not without environmental consequences. For example, the battery, which allows the engine to run, contains metals such as nickel, lithium or even cobalt.

The latter come from mines, but their extraction has “significant environmental and social impacts on countries” concerned, as the Ministry of Ecological Transition explains in a report published in February 2022. Once recovered, these metals must be transported to the countries where the batteries are assembled. In this sector, it is Asia, and more particularly five companies that represent 80% of world production, according to 20 minutes 🇧🇷 The batteries are then sold and delivered around the world, which again contributes to polluting emissions.

Finally, “Producing an electric car emits more greenhouse gases (CO2e) than its thermal equivalent […] essentially due to the manufacture of batteries »highlights Carbone 4, a consultancy specializing in energy and climate issues.

cleaner use

If the construction of an electric car is not 100% green, far from it, its use remains much cleaner than its thermal alter ego. “Over its lifetime in France, an electric car globally emits three to four times less CO2e than its thermal equivalent”continues Carbone 4. One observation, confirmed by the ministry report cited above, which is explained by “low carbon electricity production” in our country. In fact, about 70% of our production comes from nuclear energy, a low-carbon energy, according to EDF. In other words, the balance would be different if our electricity came, for example, from a coal-fired power plant.

There remains the problem of recycling the battery. Carbone 4 estimated in February 2022 that “ less than 5% of Li-ion batteries at end of life » were recycled. A trend that can change “As these electric vehicles leave the fleet and the pressure on raw materials increases “. The European Union is working alongside you to enforce “ minimum levels of recycled cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel” on new batteries.

Finally, the relatively high prices of electric cars can put a brake on their development. The State thus created a whole series of financial aid, including an ecological bonus increased from €6,000 to €7,000 for the most modest families. All these aids and the conditions for obtaining them can be found on the website of the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

In short, the incentives to buy electric cars are not necessarily contradictory to the energy saving discourse. While the former aim to achieve long-term goals, such as carbon neutrality, the latter are a reaction to an immediate context linked to an international crisis. The two are linked, especially on ecological issues, but they do not evolve over the same period of time.

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