The electric car, not so ecological? The truth about 3 arguments shared on social networks

Their impact on the climate changebut also other aspects such as mining pollution… Deciphering of three statements circulating on social networks concerning electric cars.

Coal-fired electric cars?

A frequent argument is that these electric cars emit as much greenhouse gas than thermal cars, because the electricity they use is itself produced by power stations using fossil fuels such as coal.

But according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, an electric car charged in St. Louis, Missouri – one of the states most dependent on coal for electricity – produces an average of 247 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile (i.e. approximately 154 grams per kilometer), compared to 381 grams for a thermal vehicle.

Le coal balance of an electric car depends on the region or country where it was recharged: it is greater in countries such as Poland or Asian countries, which produce a large part of their electricity from coal, than in France – where it largely depends on the nuclear.

And when we take into account the entire “life cycle” of the electric car, including the production of the raw materials for the batteries and going all the way to the recycling Ultimately, thermal cars emit much more C02 than electric cars, concluded the organization of experts International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in a thick study.

Mining for electric car batteries

Battery manufacturing is an energy-intensive process, partly because some components come from mining, and partly because raw materials have to be transported around the world for assembly and sale. The recycling of these components is possible but it remains expensive for the moment.

Let’s recycle our devices rather than drawing resources from mines, say researchers

According to a post shared on Facebook, it would take 227 tons of earth to be dug to extract the metals needed for a single electric car battery. But that estimate appears to come from an analysis published in 2020 by the Manhattan Institute, a research group climatosceptique.

According to several experts consulted by AFP, these figures are misleading. “This is a gross exaggeration“, believes Peter Newman, professor of sustainable development at the University of Curtin, Australia. According to him, it all depends on the region of exploration and the type of battery.

Beyond the climate, mining has other negative impacts: 70% of cobalt, one of the components of batteries, comes for example from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children are exploited in the mines. Access to components also poses strategic supply issues, many of which come from China, according to the International Energy Agency.

However, oil drilling, considered as real “climate bombs” with their significant environmental impact, is not a better solution according to Georg Bieker, researcher at the ICCT. The risk of global warming caused by greenhouse gases is much greater for humanity, concluded the UN climate experts (IPCC) in their last report.

In any case, it is clear that the social and environmental impact of global warming is catastrophic and of a magnitude far greater than that of mining for batteries.“, supports M. Bieker.

With an electric car, would we be “stuck in the snow”?

After a snowstorm in Virginia, United States, in January, people shared posts on Facebook claiming that electric cars were at risk of breaking down in traffic, leaving passengers stranded without heating inside and lengthening again the lines of cars. Several organizations of fact-checking (information verification) sought to verify this claim and found no evidence.

The question of the overconsumption of electric cars when it’s cold is on the other hand debated between experts, some affirming that thermal cars ultimately consume more – because they must keep the engine on to run the heating.

The British magazine “Which?” thus tested the battery of an electric SUV by simulating a traffic jam situation in summer, with the air conditioning, the radio and the light on inside, as well as a tablet plugged in. In these summer conditions (and admittedly not winter), the testers only consumed 2% of the battery in an hour and a quarter, the equivalent of 13 km of autonomy.

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