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Tackling the paradox of electric cars

Emmanuelle Bischoffe-Cluzel
Nov 27, 2023

Governments and regulatory bodies have already made major progress with setting automotive sustainability policy, and automotive companies have taken huge strides toward implementing it, notably through the electric vehicle revolution

Now, however, it’s time to broaden the focus. In this blog article, the first of two, Emmanuelle Bischoffe Cluzel, Capgemini Vice President and Sustainability Lead – Global Automotive Industry, surveys the story so far, and introduces a recent French government initiative that demonstrates a possible way forward.

 All the major automotive manufacturers have stated their climate strategy ambitions: carbon neutrality for most, with a target of 2039 for Mercedes, 2040 for GM and Volvo, 2045 for Geely, and 2050 for BMW, Renault, Toyota, and VW. Stellantis stands out with a net zero strategy for 2038.

These are fine ambitions, but it’s not yet clear how they can be realized. In addition, the industry arguably needs to act on climate change in a shorter timescale.

A major question is how we define the automotive sustainability we seek to achieve. In this article, I’ll discuss the progress – regulatory and practical – that has been made to date.

I’ll conclude how the focus urgently needs to be widened beyond emissions from cars on the road, and outline how France is taking a lead in doing so.

Automotive sustainability: the story so far

As early as 2015, carmakers were looking to produce the most efficient combustion engines possible. Strategies included widespread use of start-stop, and making petrol engines smaller but more efficient to achieve the best fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time.

Since January 2020, this competition to produce the lowest CO2-emitting engines has become a compulsory race to avoid penalties under the US’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which impose targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans on the road.

These penalties can reach €95 per vehicle per gram of CO2 above the target, and add up to huge sums, sometimes several hundred million euros, jeopardizing the profitability of vehicle programs.

The EU’s Fit for 55 regulation, presented by the European Commission on 14 July 2021 and formally adopted in April 2023, has strengthened the legislation for on-road emissions.

It imposes a limit of 95 g/km until 2024, followed by reductions in emissions of 15% by 2029 and 55% by 2034, leading up to a ban on internal combustion engines in 2035.

Source: EU Infographic - Fit for 55: why the EU is toughening CO2 emission standards for cars and vans

Source: EU Infographic – Fit for 55: why the EU is toughening CO2 emission standards for cars and vans

The EV revolution is already underway

Today, there is no longer any doubt about this revolutionary shift toward EVs, including hydrogen cars as well as battery EVs. This is the only technical solution known to date that can be developed on a large scale and that emits zero g of CO2 when the car is in use.

Trends indicate that the EV revolution is well underway. Global EV production will increase substantially in the next few years.

To meet global targets for EVs, gigafactories – huge factories dedicated to battery production – are needed. Current investments in gigafactories are massive, with more than half of the activity occurring in Europe, where there are 50 projects and significant investments in the US. Other countries are getting involved too.

For example, Northvolt has just announced a new Gigafactory in Quebec, which will be the country’s first fully integrated battery manufacturing plant. These investments are receiving significant support from sources such as governments, the European Commission, the US’s IRA, and the Made in China 2025 industrial policy.


It’s clear there’s been great progress toward automotive sustainability, but until now the focus has been squarely on tackling engine emissions. Recently, however, France has modified the ecological bonus, its scheme incentivizing the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs), to reflect a broader view of sustainability.

In part 2 of this blog article, I’ll describe this initiative and explain why it could be a game-changer for the global industry.

Meanwhile, please contact me to share your thoughts on the future of automotive sustainability and how we might be able to help you achieve your goals, for example with data-driven tools.


Emmanuelle Bischoffe-Cluzel

Sustainability Lead, Global Automotive Industry
Emmanuelle Bischoffe-Cluzel offers practical IT and engineering solutions to support automotive sustainability. She has 30 years’ automotive industry experience, gained with a global automaker and a tier 1 supplier, in roles ranging from manufacturing engineering to business development. She holds four patents relating to engine assembly.