Some media relay the alleged speech of a French researcher, author of the IPCC, who would have said that “driving at 110 km/h would have no interest” on the motorway. But the reality of his speech is in fact quite different.
But how could a French economist, author of the 4th and 5th IPCC reports, have held such a speech? Announcing that driving at 110 km/h (instead of 130 km/h) on the highway has no interest is cheeky all the same. In any case, this is what the titles of certain automotive media articles suggest, as noted Freeze Frames.
If we dig a little deeper into the subject, we realize that Christian Gollier, thehe famous economist quoted by our colleagues speaks a little more moderately in practice. And above all, it gives the opinion of an economist, and absolutely not the opinion of a scientist concerned with saving the planet by all available means, whatever their costs. This does not mean that his opinion should not be taken into account, on the contrary, but that it is necessary to understand the substance of his remarks before relaying them, and to qualify them.
What the Economist Really Said
The economist announces that in ” 2022, with the war in Ukraine, I told myself that I was going to drive at 110 km/h to reduce the purchase of oil in Russia (…) I did the calculations after having made this effort and this passage of 130 at 110 km/h has the advantage of improving the energy efficiency of the engines. We travel more kilometers per liter of gasoline. But this is very low. We gain little in terms of autonomy and CO2 emissions, compared to the time lost”.
Before adding that the essential cost of this is the travel time, which is increased by 20%. When you put a value on time, the gain in ecology and purchasing power is far outweighed by the cost of lost time“. What value does Christian Gollier take into account to conclude in this way?
” Each hour worked in France produces on average about 70 euros of value for the country. I conclude that this reduction in speed over this distance (1000 km) imposes a sacrifice of time equivalent to 2 x 1.4 x 70 = 196 euros, i.e., net of the fuel saved (11 x 0.81 = 9 euros), an amount equal to 187 euros, all this avoiding the emission of 28 kg of CO2. Per tonne of CO2 avoided, this amounts to a collective sacrifice of 6,679 euros – more than 100 times the price of a tonne of CO2 today“.
A thought of a scientist… or an economist?
So we see there the reasoning of an economist, who thinks, above all, for the economy, and not necessarily for the planet. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that a ton of CO2 saved is worth 6,679 euros?
The calculation can also be singled out. Remember that the French drive, on average, 26 km per day, mainly for trips between home and work. Traveling more than 80 km from your home? This happens, on average, six times a year for the French.
And, when a driver takes a highway with a speed limit of 130 km/h, it is mainly to go on vacation or on weekends. This means that the time “lost” by driving at 110 km/h instead of 130 km/h is “rest” time and not “work” time.
If we follow the reasoning of the economist, the electric car would be a bad idea, because of the charging times on long journeys, which “lose” time. Fortunately, fast charging greatly reduces this time, as we have been able to prove on a Paris – Marseille with different electric cars with a theoretical range of 400 km. Knowing that recharging in less than 10 minutes happens faster than you think.
The mobility of the future: carbon-free and active
However, Christian Gollier’s vision of mobility is a mixture of decarbonization and sobriety. For him, it is above all necessary to decarbonize the economy. And transport. And this then goes through the train (public transport), the bicycle and the electric car, as he mentioned recently in a tweet. The economist is thus for a sobriety, in favoring public transport and cycling over the car when possible.
Be that as it may, driving at 110 km/h instead of 130 km/h drastically reduces fuel consumption… or electricity. We had indeed proven that electric cars consume around 15% less energy when driving at 110 km/h instead of 130 km/h. With gasoline and diesel cars, it seems that this figure is closer to 20 to 25% depending on the engine and model.
This is explained by the better energy efficiency of electric motors. As such, remember that electric cars use two to three times less energy per kilometer traveled than their thermal counterparts (gasoline and diesel). Even hydrogen cars will not be able to compete with electric cars.
At a time when global warming is real and continuous, it seems dangerous not to use all the possibilities available to us to limit it. Lowering the speed on motorways is a simple and easy measure to implement with immediate results.