Renault Bangs the ‘Green’ Drum for EVs

Renault marshaled a defense of EV climate friendly credentials in the face of claims that they are a long way from being ‘green’.

In research recently published, EVs have been branded worse polluters in CO2 terms than diesel powertrains owing to their charging energy being derived from a heavily fossil-fuel dominated power industry in many countries. However, Gilles Normand, senior vice-president of electric vehicles at Renault has countered with findings from a survey by Transport and Environment, a not-for-profit lobby group whose biggest backers include the European Climate Foundation.

Speaking to TU-Automotive at the 32nd Electric Vehicle Symposium in Lyon, he said, “An internal combustion engine car, taking everything into consideration, from cradle to graves, outputs about 200g of carbon per kilometer. An EV, in Europe, only produces 100g/km, again from cradle to grave. If you take the worst case, Poland, for electricity generation, it’s about 160g/km, so about 20% better. It’s true, battery production does require more CO2 than producing an ICE but taking everything into consideration, an EV is much better from a CO2 perspective.” Naturally, these figures are still at odds with the German scientists’ findings that suggest an EV, in heavy fossil fuel dependent Germany, produces more CO2 over it’s lifecycle than a diesel car.

Battery production is an important point. Lithium, which has been used in batteries for decades, is difficult to extract from the ground and releases gasses which do more damage to the environment than fossil fuel production does. Additionally, the planet’s lithium resources are running out, which means manufacturers have to plan for the future. Normand claims that once the batteries have been produced, the car is much better for the environment than an ICE car, albeit that is assuming a mix of energy sources that use a good proportion of renewables such as wind and solar power.

Normand also claimed that EV demand is rising although the sales figures show take-up is flattening in many European countries. Looking for a silver-lining, Normand said: “About two the three years ago, people would say a small hatchback EV is enough, there’s no need for other EVs. Now, people want a crossover EV, or an eSUV. The market has completely changed very quickly and that means we need to decide how best to cater to that.”

It’s not surprising that carmakers eye China as an EV growth area especially considering the nation owns most of the globe’s raw materials for constructing lithium-ion batteries. Normand said: “When the Chinese go on long internal trips, they will either fly or take the train. They won’t drive. That means that when they drive inter-city, they don’t need a car that has hundreds of miles of range, so an EV is perfect.”

Urban air quality concerns should help drive city based vehicles although the chronic lack of charging infrastructure could threaten this trend. Yet, Normand remains confident in China championing the EV’s future. He said: “Concerns about particulates and air quality, especially in China, is driving up EV sales. While the need to improve air quality is less in the West than it is in the East, we still want to get our CO2 emissions down, so EV sales are going up but in Eastern China, all they want is cleaner air and that means they buy a lot of EVs.”

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