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New French study reveals hidden potential of electric vehicles

EU France
| 25.01.2018

In France, battery electric vehicles cause 2 to 3 times less global warming pollution than diesel and petrol vehicles over their whole life cycle, reveals a new study released today by the European Climate Foundation together with French institutional actors, representatives of the automotive and electromobility industry, battery makers, the energy sector and five NGOs, including Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (created by Nicolas Hulot, the French Environment Minister) (1).

This advantage, the study shows, will be maintained in 2030 if the objectives of the French Energy Transition Law are achieved, and will be even greater if France extends its objectives to develop renewable energy and commits to a scenario that is 100% renewable (2).

While emissions from the transport sector continue to rise, decarbonising the transport in France but also in Europe will be key if we want to meet our Paris Climate Agreement commitments. The Clean Mobility Package, presented by the European Commission in November 2017, recognises the role of electric vehicles to meet the EU’s climate goals. This study published today confirms that electric vehicles are a good solution for the climate even taking into account emissions from the production of batteries.

  • Electric vehicles have lower global warming potential than combustion vehicles on their overall life-cycle. It could still be drastically reduced depending on France’s energy choices by 2030
  • Improving the environmental impacts of batteries will help meet the Paris Climate Agreement objectives
  • Vehicle to grid and second-life batteries will accelerate the deployment of renewables and ensure better grid stability
Bodas La Romanee
In order to have a sustainable development of electromobility, France needs to move forward 100% renewables in its energy mix by 2050. In parallel, the number of vehicles must decrease and be replaced by shared modes of transport as well as other modes of transport others than cars.
Lorelei Limousin, Réseau Action Climat

The key role of batteries

40% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by an electric vehicle occur during the battery production phase. Therefore, improving the environmental impacts of batteries, the study reveals, has a key role in decarbonising the transport sector and help reaching the Paris Climate Agreement objectives.

In a period of major growth in the battery electric vehicle market up to 2030, the improvement of energy efficiency of production activities should enable the impact of the vehicle to be reduced by 20 to 25% up to 2030.

Improving the environmental impact of mineral extraction, developing sustainable batteries in terms of efficiency, weight and use, and promoting of recycling practices are also part of the solution.

Unleashing the batteries’ full potential

E-mobility offers a wealth of additional environmental advantages for the French electricity system, the study says:

  • The use of vehicle-to-grid services (V2G) can help integrate intermittent energies and stabilize the grid in order to phase-out fossil fuels in the French power sector, either by implementing smart charging or bilateral charges (electricity is exported from the vehicle to the grid). The technical V2G potential in France of 1.3 million vehicles (30% of the stock in 2030) is 45 GWh. Around 10% of this potential could cover the entire needs in terms of primary reserve between 6-8 pm during a winter day.
  • Second-life batteries for storing electricity can compete as a sustainable and convenient option for renewable energy storage.  When a battery loses a quarter of its initial capacity (for example after 10 years), it can be refurbished and used as a renewable energy storage device. Renewable energy can therefore be stored when a surplus is available and then reinjected when demand is high, or it can be used for own use. If all automotive batteries entered in the French market in 2020 are used for renewable energy storage in 2030, the technical annual potential will be 8 TWh, increasing to 37 TWh in 2040 (providing there is enough renewable energy to be stored).
If we want to ensure a successful evolution towards 100% renewable energy, the transition of the mobility and energy sectors must occur simultaneously. Under certain conditions, the development of electric vehicles can happen without resorting to nuclear energy and can be a solution to accelerate the integration of renewables into the energy mix. That is why we support its development amongst a panel of other sustainable modes of transport.
Pascal Canfin, Director of WWF France


  1. European Climate Foundation, Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme, Group Renault, SAFT, RTE, AVERE France, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), CLER Réseau pour la transition énergétique, Climate Action Network France, and WWF.
  2. In 2016, according to a life cycle analysis, an electric saloon car emitted on average 63% less greenhouse gases than a petrol car (12 t CO2–eq. and 33 t CO2– eq.) without taking into account the recycling credits, and 70% less when including these credits (10 t CO2– eq. and 32 t CO2–eq.).  In 2030, the electric vehicle’s footprint could range from 8 to 14 tCO2-eq, depending on France’s energy choices.


Audrey Gueudet

Director, Strategic Communications