Written October 10, 2022, at 4 p.mUpdated October 21, 2022 at 11.35
Is all-electric the only solution for cars, at a time when more than ever we have to reconcile purchasing power and the climate crisis?
In a difficult economic context characterized by strained household purchasing power, the automotive sector faces increasing consumer demand for cleaner vehicles. This trend, supported by a strong political will for greener mobility thanks to a renewed car fleet, runs up against budgetary constraints for French households whose mobility needs are structural, but also against the uncompromising reality of the numbers: with 35 million vehicles in circulation in France and 1.7 million new vehicles sold per year, “ecological sanitation” of the fleet through its renewal would take more than 30 years.
70% of the French go to work by car
If the big cities can afford to limit the use of the car thanks to alternative transport networks, everywhere else it is as important as it is inevitable. For many, the car is still synonymous with freedom. A freedom of movement that affects both the personal and professional life of everyone: more than eight out of ten households own a car and more than 70% of French people use it every day to go to work. Mobility is therefore not a luxury, but a necessity. For the many French people who cannot afford to buy a new vehicle today, even less an electric one, despite state aid, which in this case mainly benefits the richest households (up to 6,000 euros for a car whose price is 47,000 euros), the used market is the gateway to access the car.
Consider the manufacturing cycle
The price factor is a priority here, as the car is the second item in household expenditure after housing, and purchasing power has become our citizens’ biggest concern in connection with the energy crisis in Europe.
If we also take the whole life cycle into account, a used car is not necessarily less ecological than a new car, just as an electric car is not necessarily less polluting than a thermal car. In fact, the amount of resources needed for the construction and useful life of vehicles remains high regardless of the type of vehicle: the production of a new car, for example, has impact on mineral resources, the quality of water and soil. Thus the indirect emissions of CO2 associated with this manufacturing process is equivalent to two years of direct emissions associated with its use.
It is environmentally friendly to extend the lifespan
Extending a vehicle’s life cycle through refurbishment and regular technical inspections makes it possible to offer cheaper and reliable used vehicles to French households, while having significant and largely underestimated beneficial effects on the environment. A study conducted in 2021 by researchers Yuya Nakamoto (PhD in Economics), Oita University, Japan and Shigemi Kagawa (PhD in Environmental Economics), Director of the Department of Economics at Kyushu University, Japan, thus shows that the lifetime of vehicles, used and new, have a not inconsiderable environmental impact: the longer their lifespan, the lower the CO2 footprint. In other words, the lifespan of a car should be seen as a form of sobriety.
It is therefore urgent to implement a sobriety plan for the car industry, which involves extending the life cycle of cars through refurbishment. Complementary to the solution of the renewal of the car park, such a plan would not only make it possible to combine mobility and ecology, but also to reconcile the French people’s wallet with their desire for freedom.
Guillaume Paoli, co-founder and co-director of Aramis Group