why is the electric car still not imposing itself in Normandy?

Several models of electric cars will be exhibited at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris. The French fleet is entering a phase of massive electrification with the end of sales of new thermal cars in 2035, a big step towards achieving CO2 neutrality by 2050. But in Normandy, the electric car is still far from imposed.

Laurine has stood in line for 30 minutes at a Total station in Caen to fill up with diesel. She has it”tired of waiting, getting up earlier or coming home later“. But when asked if she is tempted to switch to an electric vehicle, the answer is clear: “no, it’s too expensive and there aren’t many charging stations!“.

However, the private vehicle market is changing. The European Parliament voted on 8 June 2022, the end of the sale of new thermo cars in 2035a big step towards achieving CO2 neutrality by 2050.

In Normandy, with the aim of limiting the sources of air pollution, the most polluting vehicles have been banned from driving in Rouen and in 12 other municipalities in the urban area since Thursday, September 1, 2022. Vehicles with Crit’Air decals greater than 3 are no longer approved to drive. The urban area of ​​Le Havre and the urban community of Caen la mer are working on the implementation of this system in 2025.

Olivier is a kitchen employee in Canteleu (76). For years he got into the habit of driving there from his home in Amfreville-la-Mi-Voie (76). An everyday life that the 51-year-old man will have to put an end to, because since 1 September he can no longer use his vehicle. Old in 1999 and classified Crit’Air 5, his car is normally prohibited in Rouen and the 12 communes that surround it, although a tolerance is planned until March 2023. In the meantime, he tested his journey by public transport: it takes me 1 hour by bus versus 20 minutes by car and in the morning there aren’t many buses and I have to take two to get to my destination launch the latter.

And there is no doubt for him to break the law after the grace period, because in the absence of a Crit’Air sticker or a sticker greater than 3, he risks a fine of 68 euros. His car ends up in the scrap yard:”it is old and unsaleable”. With a modest income, he does not plan to buy a new car, but perhaps to move to Canteleu, a town not affected by the measure.

The region has many rural areas and, although imperfect, a certain correlation is emerging: the lower the standard of living of the inhabitants of a municipality, the higher the proportion of vehicles excluded from the ZFE. Take effect, low-income households often do not have the means to replace their old vehicle with a newer vehicle that meets the ZFE criteria, much less with an electric motor. It takes between 18,000 and 65,000 euros for a new electric vehicle.

The most polluting cars are gradually disappearing

Today, cars with a Crit’air 2 label drive the most on Normandy’s roads, followed by those with a Crit’air 3 label.

In 2011 Crit’air 3, 4 and unclassified cars were the majority in the territory. It is from 2013 and more significantly from 2014 that the most polluting cars gradually disappear. The trend has reversed in 2018, Crit’air 2 is well ahead.

In the region, crit’air 1 type cars are on the rise. This ZFE measure encourages drivers who do not meet the standards to change vehicles quickly. Result: there is a rush in the concessionaires in the center of Rouen. At Toyota, for example, a customer wants to replace his old car and quickly. This has been the case for every other customer since the beginning of the summer. But they are mostly looking for used cars.


“At the moment I am with my vehicle in Crit’air 4, so I am banned from driving in Rouen and the surrounding area”
, explains the client. He’s not the only one especially because of the price and delivery times of new cars. Possibilities appear as the only solution.

“We really feel that drivers in the Rouen area are looking for less polluting vehicles, but new ones are still too expensive for them.”confirms Baptiste Marie, sales advisor at Toyota.

Petrol and diesel cars are still very much in the majority

In fact, petrol and diesel cars are still very much outnumbered. In 2021, diesel engines represent 1,225,306 vehicles in circulation in Normandy. The figure is 775,783 for petrol.

Electric and hybrid cars are interesting for the Normans from 2017, with more than 4,500 cars in circulation in total. In 2021 there will be more than 18,000. Engine types that are still far behind diesel and gasoline engines.

The electric car: the problem of cost and ignorance

Today, the French car fleet is entering a phase of massive electrification. This is also one of the main topics at the Paris Motor Show de Paris which takes place from Monday 17 to Sunday 23 October 2022 at Parc Expo-Porte de Versailles.

Etienne Balmier is a Carsharing dealer administrator and electric car specialist at Renault Retail Group Caen. He finds that the electric Zoé has been on the market for 10 years, but is struggling to get on the market : “we’re doing about 25 tests a week on this vehicle at the moment, but that’s not enough”. The question of price arises: “we often hear customers say that it is too expensive”. But the expert points the finger ignorance of this engine : “The customers often come by word of mouth, they know someone who drives electric. It’s very comfortable, it doesn’t make any noise, and you can use it every day to go home and back – hassle-free work.”

The question of charging stations also comes up again and again:

you know that 95% of electric car users charge at home. Simply plug into a 230 volt socket, no adapter needed

Etienne Balmier, car sharing concession administrator and electric vehicle specialist at Renault Retail Group Caen

Individuals can also install a terminal at home. It takes about 15 hours to recharge. Price level, he explains that: “recharging to drive 300 km costs €10 at home, but €40 with a fast charging station and for combustion it costs €30”.

And when we talk to him about soaring electricity pricesEtienne Balmier replies that: “home charging remains protected by the tariff screen”. Take effect, the government has limited the increase in electricity prices to 4% in 2022 and 15% in February 2023. Regarding public terminals: “We estimate an increase of around 50%, but there are many different scenarios” according to Clément Molizon, general delegate of Avere (National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility).


The charging station puzzle

The fastest electric terminal in France saw the light of day on 22 September in Douains, near Vernon (Eure), along the A13 motorway. According to its operator, Kallista Energy, it can fully charge a car in 20 minutes. Assuming, of course, that you have the vehicle suitable for fast charging.

With vehicles having an average range of 450 kilometers, available charging points can become a real headache for an EV driver. In Normandy, there are an average of 97 charging points open to the public per 100,000 inhabitants. The charging time for an electric car depends on several factors: the model of the vehicle, the capacity of the battery, the power of the charging station used and finally the state of charge of the battery. The charging time can thus vary from 30 minutes to several hours.

The current development of recharging infrastructures must be continued and strengthened because concerns about recharging are still a brake on the adoption of electric vehicles. Local authorities therefore have a role to play in planning the deployment of charging infrastructure with the right power in the right place. For daily journeys, it is necessary to promote the spread of home charging (in particular in collective housing) and in business, as well as the development of a more extensive network of simple and robust charging stations. “normal” especially for charging in the city and at night.

Electric car: cleaner?

For Etienne Balmier, it is indeed a cleaner vehicle that consumes less: “we are at 12 KWh per 100 km, while a thermal car is at 60 KWh per 100 km, the CO2 footprint is much more respected”.

But what to do with the battery when it is replaced? “You should know that a battery allows 1000/1500 recharges. This corresponds to 300,000 kilometers”. And once completely worn out: “we can reuse it to, for example, store power at home, it’s convenient for those who have solar panels”.

On his side, the Ademe, hasagency for ecological transition, explains that compared to a compact diesel sedan, the carbon debt is repaid after around 15,000 km for a small electric city-type vehicle, whereas it is only repaid after 100,000 km for a high-end range electric SUV.

Take effect, the carbon impact of an electric vehicle increases almost proportionally to its weight, itself strongly influenced by the storage capacity of the battery. It is therefore advisable to choose a battery that is just right for most uses of the vehicle (e.g. daily housework), choosing a vehicle model that is as small and light as possible, that will be able to offer the highest autonomy to from this battery capacity.

Support to help households change cars

In France, there are several aids for the purchase of an electric vehicle, but they are subject to under certain conditions.

To allow them to change their vehicle to a less polluting model, Rouen Normandiet Metropolis, the Department and the State offer support and bonuses for conversion. Their amount can reach 5,000 euros for metropolitan support and 4,000 euros for the ward part depending on their income.

But these aids are “reckless” for the Automobile Club Association. “The metropolis pays 5,000 euros and the state 4,000 euros, except that the cheapest electric car is Dacia, it is 19,000 euros”.

The state also offers support in the form of a 30% tax credit for equipment for a home charging station.

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