in Tours as in Orléans, the electric car struggles to pass the other

As the Paris Motor Show kicks off on Monday, October 17, many French people are more concerned about refueling their car than buying a new one. Where are the electric cars in the two metropolises of the Centre-Val de Loire region?

The Mondial de l’auto opens on October 17 in Paris, under the sign of the fuel shortage. For its 124th edition, the international exhibition has set itself the task of proving with great innovation that the car still has its place in the 21st century. But against the background of the general collapse of biodiversity and the climate crisis, for which transport is largely responsible, electric cars are still struggling to establish themselves.

In fact, far from the big announcements, the ecological transformation of transport is complicated on the ground. One of the most important measures to encourage and then force drivers to choose more efficient cars has been the establishment of low-emission zones, or EPZs.

These ZFEs, tested in Paris and in several large cities, have since 2015 differentiated vehicles according to their impact on the ambient air, through “Crit’air” stickers, classified from 1 to 5. To maintain the quality of ​​the air and limit pollution, the most polluting vehicles are no longer allowed to circulate inside the ZFE, with a fine.

So far the Centre-Val de Loire region does not have a ZFE, but Tours and Orléans should both join this label in 2025.

Compared to the national average, Centre-Val de Loire is rather behind in terms of the ecological transition of thermal cars. Cars classified as Crit’air 1 (the least polluting) represent only 21.3% of the car fleet, compared to 25% nationally. Conversely, the most polluting cars likely to be banned from driving in the ZFE are more numerous in Centre-Val de Loire than in the rest of the territory.

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In this little game, the rural areas are the most in trouble. The two cities in the region, Tours and Orléans, are above the national average, with a good lead for Tours Métropole, where 29.1% of drivers already own a “Crit’air 1” car, against only 27% in Orléans.

On the other hand, an encouraging sign, the share of less polluting cars is gradually increasing in the region. Although the number of electric cars remains small (and charging points are less important than elsewhere in France), the number of cars classified as “Crit’air 1” has increased from under 20,000 in 2011 to almost 340,000 in 2021. To these must be added almost 560,000 “Crit’air 2” vehicles.

On the other hand, although the best solution against pollution remains the generalization of “soft” mobility (public transport and cycling), neither Tours nor Orléans is ready to escape the use of cars. If the two cities have multiplied the bus lines, the tram offers are quite unequal. In Orléans, tram line A, which opened in 2000, is still less practical than the car to connect the city center with the Source district due to its length and the detours made to the south of the city.

Fortunately, Orleans residents who are reluctant to take the car for 15 kilometers can fall back on the bike. Finally, it all depends on their journey, according to the regular annoyance of some bike users. On social networks, some motorists, but also politicians, who superimpose pedestrian spaces and cyclist spaces, endangering the two categories of users, accuse of favoring motorists.

More objectively, the 2021 barometer for cycling cities paints a nuanced but uncompromising portrait of the urban area. This survey conducted by the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) invited 275,000 respondents from 1,625 municipalities to comment on various criteria for their practice in their city (general feeling, safety, comfort, etc.).

Apart from the commune of Olivet, which comes out with a respectable grade of C, the rest of the urban area is rated rather poorly, with a special mention for the communes of Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin and Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle, which both get grade G, the lowest in the ranking.

As for Tours, although it is considered more favorable for cycling, it does not do much better. The barometer for cycling cities gives the rather average grade of D to most of the city area’s municipalities that appear on the ranking list. In addition, the capital Tours currently has only one tram line opened in 2013, the other is still under investigation.

The arrival of the ZFEs in the two largest cities of the region should therefore be relatively pleasant for cars, the majority of which already have the correct Crit’air sticker in the two metropolises. On the other hand, to promote soft mobility, the road is still long. In the face of global warming and pollution peaks, this transition is nevertheless necessary: ​​transport (mainly road) is the first source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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