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Rising to the challenge: electric cars for all

voiture électrique

Still just hypothetical, the roll-out of electric cars is on the roadmap for public authorities and carmakers.

Might we be seeing exclusively electric cars on the road any time soon? It will take a few more decades to eliminate internal combustion engines completely in France. However, sales of electric cars are constantly rising and manufacturers are poised to release new models. While only a million of these vehicles were sold worldwide last year, sales are expected to exceed 30 million in 2030 to represent 28% of total car sales, according to the latest figures published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). And the environmental stakes are high, as these vehicles are slated to reduce the CO2 emissions responsible for climate change, a priority for European governments. The French government’s executive branch recently launched a major offensive to boost the electric vehicle market with the presentation last May of a new strategic contract for the automotive industry covering the period 2018-2022.

Promoting electric vehicles in France

With this proactive, ambitious roadmap, the French government and the industry aim to usher 150,000 companies and 800,000 employees into a new era defined by the development of zero-emissions, automatic vehicles. By 2022, they hope to multiply the number of new electric vehicles sold in France each year by five to get a total of 600,000 electric vehicles on French roads within the next four years, compared with the current figure of 139,000 electric vehicles for approximately 35 million cars on the road. They have also set themselves the target of getting more than 400,000 rechargeable hybrids on the country’s roads within the same timeframe, ten times more than today. This means that, in 2022, one million vehicles in France should be powered, at least in part, by rechargeable batteries.

To meet these objectives, the French government is setting aside a substantial budget of €300 million to develop infrastructure and maintain public incentives such as the conversion bonus and feebate schemes over five years. The most pressing priority will be expanding the network of charging stations on public roads and in residential estates. France currently has 22,000 public and 137,000 private (home and business) charging stations, and the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition plans to install 100,000 more, which should be made available to the public in 2022.

Access to electric charging stations is a major obstacle to those thinking of purchasing an electric vehicle, with most drivers deciding that there still aren’t enough in France. Another criticism raised by potential buyers is that it takes too long to charge vehicles at these stations. With this in mind, several manufacturers are currently working on technology for new generation batteries that would take six minutes to charge sufficiently to drive for 200 to 300 km.

Changing buying habits

Range anxiety is the other main factor holding people back from purchasing electric cars. With the exception of some models such as those produced by Tesla, vehicles with currently available batteries are unable to cover more than 600 km without risking power failure. This makes electric cars well suited for urban and extra-urban use, as the boom in car sharing in cities, particularly in Madrid, attests. Few users of these cars actually have their own vehicle. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), electric cars accounted for only 1.5% and hybrids for 2.9% of car sales in the European Union in 2017.

But carmakers are set on changing buying habits in the long term. The Volkswagen Group plans on investing €20 billion to equip its brands with no less than 80 all‑electric models by 2025. Premium German brand Mercedes has launched an EQ label dedicated to electric, expecting to release some ten models by 2022. In France, PSA will offer from 2019 an electrified version for all its new models with an hybrid or electric technology. Models have even been presented at the Paris Motor Show such as Citroën C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid Concept or DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE. Thus 100% of the PSA range will be electrified by 2025.

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