Are electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and fuel-efficient vehicles “green?” The answer, for many people, is “Yes,” but the French see things a little differently.
Look up on YouTube or watch the television for green car ads, and you’ll be sure to find advertisements for electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and even this year’s SUV, just a couple miles-per-gallon better than last year, all touted as green, better for the environment. Now, while many of these modern vehicles are “greener” than my old 1973 Dodge Dart or 1993 Jeep Wrangler, 16 mpg and 12 mpg respectively, they still have an environmental impact and carbon footprint.
Now, this isn’t the say that you shouldn’t buy an electric vehicle, especially when you consider that there are emissions and pollutants associated with the manufacture of every automobile. Electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, which have been linked with pollution and emissions. Additionally, at the end of the service life, the car would need recycling, and lithium-ion battery pack disposal or recycling is also emissions-intensive. Of course, you could hybrid battery conditioning, but that’s another post.
All in all, however, electric vehicles are not an environmental abomination, as their lifecycle emissions are actually far lower than even the best hybrid and conventional vehicles. Calling them “green” is something that the French aren’t willing to concede. According to the French Jury of Advertising Ethics (JDP), a recent Renault ZOE ad saying, “To fight pollution, drive a car,” is going too far. You’ll recall that Paris is restricting traffic, and may even ban cars altogether, to fight the growing air pollution problem there, so electric vehicles make sense.
Considering that France’s average power grid emissions is a scant 35 g CO2/kWh (grams carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour), running an electric vehicle there is far better than, say, pretty much all of the United States, where the average emissions top 565 g CO2/kWh. Still there are emissions, and electric vehicles are “greenER” than conventional vehicles, though I think the French JPD missed the point with their ruling that Renault’s ad was unethical. What about walking or biking? These would certainly be “greenER”, but would it green enough for the JDP? It’s really just the lesser of two evils, if you think about it.
Photo credit: Cédric JANODET