French study reveals positives of electric vehicle uptake in the country

11 December 2017

11 December 2017

A French non-government organisation (NGO), Fondation pour la nature et l’homme, has published a report on the impact of electric vehicles (EVs) on the environment by 2030.

Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly turning to EVs in a bid to meet strict CO2 emission regulations following the collapse of the diesel market. Governments are also keen to push drivers towards the technology, with France and the UK banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. The environmental impact of these vehicles is also in question.

The report highlights the impact of the energy transition level attained, on battery efficiency gains and on batteries’ capability to be used to store renewable energy. While the environmental benefits of EVs are undeniable, there is concern over the environmental impact electric cars have over the course of their lifespan. This includes battery production, their end of life and the energy sources used to generate electricity.

In order to shed some light on the issues that could be caused by the technology, the Fondation compared eight electric, plug-in hybrid and traditional combustion engine vehicles throughout their full lifecycle.

The report found that the impact of electric vehicles on climate and the environment was dependent on the origin of the electricity used, and therefore intricately linked to any future policy initiated by the government on clean and renewable energy sources. In France by 2030, CO2 emissions produced by an electric vehicle could vary between 8 and 14 tonnes depending on the energy choices made.

The report also states that the environmental benefits of electric vehicles could be accentuated by developing the services of the vehicle-to-grid or V2G system or maximising car sharing schemes. With an estimated potential of 3-4 TWh per year for a fleet of 4 to 5 million vehicles, this could ease any spike in consumption caused by an influx of EVs on the roads. Also, these complementary could see battery life last for ten years, with an additional five years as a storage device, meaning the life cycle is expanded and therefore an impact on total environmental contribution.

In France, CO2 emissions from manufacturing and using an electric vehicle and its end-of-life treatment reach 12 tonnes of CO2 for a city car (63% less than a petrol-powered city car) and 26 tonnes for a saloon car (44% better than a diesel-powered one).

40% of an electric vehicle’s environmental footprint has to do with battery production. Further efficiency gains are expected shortly, but aspects of a circular economy will be required for electric vehicles’ market share to continue going up without depleting mineral resources. Batteries will also need to be used to store renewable electricity to speed up energy transition.

Reports in July suggested that China’s push for electric vehicles could see additional harm to the environment due to the manufacturing of batteries, with additional issues should electricity used to charge them come from non-renewable sources.