“The electric car is an ecological bomb.  " True or false ?

“The electric car is an ecological bomb. ” True or false ?

We hear that the electric car is an ecological bomb. What is it in fact? Our journalist decodes.

→ Manufacturing an electric car emits much more greenhouse gases

(carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2) than that of a thermal vehicle, gasoline or diesel, due to the materials and chemical processes necessary for the batteries, metal-intensive technologies. Result: “An electric car requires six times more minerals than a conventional car,” according to the International Energy Agency. There is an average of 53.2 kg of copper (compared to 22.3 kg in a thermal vehicle), 8.9 kg of lithium, 39.9 kg of nickel and 66.3 kg of graphite.

→ This dependence on metals increases mining activity:

by 2040, lithium should see its demand multiplied by 42, cobalt by 21 and nickel by 19. But this race for minerals is accompanied by ecological setbacks: intense consumption of fossil fuels, pollution of aquifer soils, enormous water needs. This pressure on blue gold is causing water stress in the “lithium triangle”, between Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. A region which concentrates 34.8% of world production and where drought and soil pollution with heavy metals disfigure the landscapes to the detriment of local populations.

→ This strong initial environmental impact, the electric car compensates for it with use,

when it reaches a certain distance called the “pivot kilometer” – the moment when its carbon footprint becomes lower than that of its thermal equivalent. In France, it is around 30,000 to 40,000 km and, over 200,000 km (life cycle of a car in France), electric vehicles generally emit 3 to 4 times less CO2. This tipping point recedes as the vehicle becomes heavier, requiring a larger battery. A small city car is therefore more beneficial to the climate than an SUV.

→ The electricity mix of the country where the car is recharged is essential to measure its environmental impact.

With its predominantly carbon-free electricity (nuclear or renewable), France enjoys a considerable advantage since an electric car sold in 2020 emits 69% fewer emissions than a diesel vehicle of the same size. The average carbon footprint of an electric vehicle in France in 2020 is 2 times lower than in Germany, almost 3 times lower than in Poland and more than 3 times lower than in India.

Sources: Ademe; Carbon 4; International Energy Agency.

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