why the electric car is struggling to establish itself in Alsace

While French drivers have been facing fuel shortages for several weeks, using an electric car could be a solution. In Alsace, the transition is still difficult, even if it is accelerating.

This Monday, October 17, 2022, the Paris Motor Show opens in a context of fuel crisis and transition to electric vehicles. The opportunity to take stock of the development of the electric car market in Alsace, where these vehicles are gradually gaining in popularity, without however flooding the market.

The fleet begins its transition to all-electricity, one of the main themes of the Paris Motor Show. In June 2022, the European Parliament voted to stop the sale of internal combustion vehicles in 2035, i.e. in thirteen years. In France, motorists are encouraged to change their diesel or petrol cars to an electric vehicle.

But buying a car of this type comes at a price. Batteries are expensive, and it is often difficult for households to switch to electricity. Although the share of electric cars in the car fleet has increased sharply (see the graph below), diesel or petrol cars still make up 98 % of the Grand Est car park.

For this there is support, such as the ecological bonus, a bonus for the purchase of a clean vehicle. In an interview with Les Echos on October 17, President Emmanuel Macron also announced that he would increase this bonus from 6,000 to 7,000 euros for half of the households (the most modest). An additional lever that should enable the car market to electrify faster. Emmanuel Macron also indicated that the leasing unit, which makes it possible to buy an electric vehicle for 100 euros per month, will see the light of day at the end of 2023.

The existing support has nevertheless allowed dealers in Alsace to see their electric vehicles become increasingly popular. Hervé Egele, commercial director of the Peugeot dealer in Sélestat, explains that electric or hybrid cars now represent 35 % of its sales: “We peaked with more than 60 % in March, at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, when the price of gasoline exploded.”

None of this would be possible without transition support.

Hervé Egele

Commercial director of the Peugeot dealer in Sélestat

The commercial director adds that the profiles of electric car buyers are different: “Some come out of opportunism because fuel is getting more and more expensive. Others out of ecological conviction. But what is certain is that all this would not be possible without conversion support.”

Not everyone buys electric for that reason, but at least cleaner. As a result, the most polluting vehicles are gradually disappearing from the car fleet. In Grand Est, the number of vehicles classified as “Crit’Air 5” has decreased by almost 70 % between 2011 and 2021. At the same time, there are 18 times more vehicles classified as “Crit’Air” 1.

The development of vehicles according to their “Crit’Air” is of particular importance in the urban areas of Strasbourg and Mulhouse. The Low Emission Zone (ZFE) of Eurometropolis Strasbourg was created on January 1, 2022. Its goal is to reduce air pollution responsible for 40,000 deaths per year on national territory, according to an estimate by Public Health France. To meet this public health challenge, the most polluting vehicles will be progressively banned from 1 January 2023.

This is the only ZFE in Alsace. However, as stipulated by law, all French urban areas with more than 150,000 inhabitants must create such an area by January 1, 2025 at the latest. M2A (Mulhouse Alsace Agglomeration) will therefore follow in the footsteps of the Alsace capital.

In the Eurometropolis Strasbourg, vehicles classified as “Crit’Air 5” will be banned on January 1, 2023. A measure that should concern few people, as the sticker represents only 1.3 % of passenger cars in 2021.

A year later, “Crit’Air 4” will in turn be banned, representing the 7th % of the Strasbourg stock. It will then be the turn for “Crit’Air 3”, more than 23 % of passenger cars in Eurometropolis Strasbourg at the moment. The ban on “Crit’Air 2” vehicles, planned for January 2028, should so far only concern four of the 33 municipalities of the Eurometropolis: Strasbourg, Schiltigheim, Ostwald and Holtzheim.

In Mulhouse, the most polluting vehicles (Crit’Air 5, 4 and 3) represent a larger share of the total number of private cars than in Strasbourg:

Another big challenge for these two cities, which must make room for electric cars: charging points. The autonomy of these cars increases, but they do not allow long journeys. It is therefore important to have terminals accessible to the public.

The vast majority of 1.1 million existing terminals in France are at home and in businesses. Of all the existing ones in the country, only 70 are 000 are open to the public. And Grand Est is one of the poor students: the region has only 82 terminals out of 100 000 inhabitants. Only Pays de la Loire (68) and Brittany (79) do less well.

But progress is accelerating. In 2021, 21 terminals have been installed in Eurometropolis in Strasbourg, i.e. 42 charging points. The following year, between January and August alone, there were 32 bollards that have been installed. So 53 terminals were deployed between 2021 and the end of August 2022. And that’s just the beginning: 250 terminals must see the light of day before the end of 2025, i.e. 500 charging points for electric cars. A new implementation should make it possible to double this figure a year later.

As for the Mulhouse urban area, the Mulhouse Alsace Agglomeration (m2A) announced in February 2022 that between 50 and 150 terminals would be installed during the year. At the time, m2A was looking for a private partner to deploy these stations.

Emmanuel Macron also assured that the price shield would be extended to charging stations in January 2023. A new way not to discourage drivers from switching to electricity, while the 30 cent discount on fuel has been extended until mid-November by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

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