The French Electric Car Boneyard – What Really Happened

Alleged French electric car boneyard
Another angle of the cars piled up in the alleged French electric car boneyard

Electric Car Myths

Usually we write about low carbon transportation. It so happens that here we report on a social media blow up about a mistakened notions about electric cars.

Autolib – the company behind the alleged French electric car boneyard

The story starts with Autolib way back in 2011, a car-sharing service that provided electric vehicles in the Paris area. The service was not sustainable and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Part of the problem was that the company didn’t account for the cost of maintaining the cars and for the great mismatch between the number of cars they had and the number of subscribers they enlisted. The result was that subscribers didn’t have enough cars exacerbated by the problem of cars going out of service due to poor maintenance. The cars were sold off and many were left to rot in a lot in Massy, France.

Social media circulates the photo with an embelished story

Later on, social media users were circulating photographs of the abandoned cars in a boneyard near Paris, France. The captions said the cars had been abandoned and left to decay because their battery storage cells had “given out” and were too expensive to replace and hence electric cars were fundamentally faulty. The photographs were real, but the accompanying description was misleading in multiple ways. In fact, it was the failure of a business model, not of the electric cars themselves.

Fact checkers debunk the French electric car boneyard story

Both Snopes and Politifact invested the story about the “French electric car boneyard” and gave their respective accounts. When the business failed in 2018, the company sold off most of the cars and had to put the ones in poor condition in a lot. While in the lot, their batteries had been removed anyway and weren’t leaking into the soil as the posters suggested. One of the managers of the lot, Paul Aouizerate was quoted as saying “Our vehicles are properly stored. The firefighters are aware that the construction site is well organized. All batteries have been removed, [and] the connections are isolated”.

Summary TL;DR

The photos are real but its not because the electric batteries failed, its because the parent company’s business model failed .

Anne Lauer
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Anna Lauer is a writer, gardener, and homesteader living in rural Wisconsin. She has written for Mother Earth News, Grit, and Hobby Farms magazines. Anna is writing a new book about growing your food for free and an ultimate guide to producing food at little to no cost. When shes not writing or gardening, Anna enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters.