Beware of this misinformation when making electric car batteries

Ending the sale of new thermal cars from 2035 was adopted by the 27 Member States of the European Union on 29 June, a new step to help achieve climate goals. And since the European Parliament voted in favor of this text on June 9, publications criticizing electric cars have spread on social networks. In June, a visual was widely shared on Facebook: it showed that making an electric car battery “weighing 450 kg”, required “digging, moving and processing 225 tons of raw material”.

Screenshot of wrong electric car battery estimate shared on social media. – Screenshot/Facebook

“Electric cars can’t save the planet, they destroy it,” the post concludes. Also on Twitter, the environmental cost of electric vehicles was pointed out, with one user criticizing the “negative consequences of CO2”, in a tweet shared more than 600 times. Other photos have reappeared on Facebook: those of an Autolib cemetery in Loir-et-Cher where batteries are said to be leaking (an infox that started in 2021 and that we are dealing with here).

FAKE OFF

The figures referred to the viral visual as “false”, judges Olivier Vidal, research director of CNRS, at the Institute of Earth Sciences in Grenoble. Aluminum, steel, manganese, copper, cobalt: for a 320 kg battery (Zoe city vehicle type from Renault), we will definitely not exceed 25 tons of ore, ie 10 times less than advertised “, you will count -he. In September 2021, the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research estimated, with the AFP examining another version of this visually, “that we were about 21 tons” and not 225.

In addition, it should be remembered that the weight of a battery is usually between 250 kg and 300 kg. More powerful electric car models are reasonable to have a heavier battery to ensure their autonomy: Tesla batteries weigh between 430 kg and 600 kg. A 450 kg battery, as mentioned visually, is one of the most powerful models.

“Too many, commented Olivier Vidal. And it doesn’t have to be representative of the European fleet ”, even if he observes that manufacturers are likely to make electric vehicles that are“ the exact replica of the thermals, with the same performances ”, a“ useless ” in their eyes.

“An electric car pollutes three to five times less than a thermal”

Moreover, the estimate given is unbelievable. “0.45 tonnes of batteries for 225 tonnes of raw material, which makes an average metal concentration in this lost material of 0.2%, the research director continued. It’s ridiculous, it equates to average concentration of cobalt in deposits. »

Since the sources of this estimate are not indicated, it is not possible to determine whether life cycle analysis (LCA) is considered. The LCA makes it possible to assess all environmental impacts. But even considering the analysis of its entire life cycle, “the electric vehicle pollutes three to five times less than a thermal vehicle”, points out Pierre Lefaivle, transportation manager at Climate Action Network, based on a tool developed by the Transport and Environment Association (ATE). The latter makes it possible to compare the difference in CO2 emissions between thermal and electric vehicles.

The importance of energy mixing

To make an electric car, “it takes, at present, twice the amount of energy than to make a thermal car, especially because of the battery, Oliver Vidal agrees. But the additional manufacturing cost is derived from 80,000 kilometers. This is why the energy mix of a country comes into the equation. There is no point in improving electromobility in a country where electricity is made from coal.

“These problems are complex, the researcher wants to be qualified. To say that” the electric vehicle will kill the planet “is as foolish as to say that houses or food can kill the planet, because, both cases, we also need raw materials.We need to compare different options, in script with a perceived evolution of the population, the GDP, the mode of transportation before drawing conclusions quickly. »

“Moving tomorrow doesn’t have a lot of cars”

“Clean cars don’t exist”, says Pierre Leflavive of the Climate Action Network. This group of associations defends electromobility under specific conditions to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And it is regrettable that the environmental and social issues related to its development are given too little consideration by political decision makers.

If the post is “caricatural”, according to Pierre Leflaive, it raises questions of the integrity and the development of the ecological and social balance of electric vehicles, especially with regard to the extraction of rare metals. “Moving tomorrow is not possible with as many electric cars and SUVs as today’s fleet, it is not possible, he said. To get out of thermal vehicles as quickly as possible with a clear purpose. to end the sale in 2035, we need to reduce the fleet of cars and safe supplies. And therefore, to question the fact that there are mines in Europe to bet on the level of environmental, social and human rights requirements. »

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