France to offer interest-free loans for low-emission vehicles

The French government has unveiled a scheme offering interest-free loans to people or small businesses to allow them to buy greener vehicles.

France to offer interest-free loans for low-emission vehicles
A people plugs an electric vehicle (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron appears to be following through with his campaign pledge to create a state-sponsored programme to help low-income households purchase electric (or hybrid) vehicles, joining the promise to “completely renew” his climate policy.

The Environment Ministry has released plans to offer interest-free loans of up to €30,000 (refundable in 7 years) from January 2023.

However, the first phase of the loans only applies to certain groups.

Who qualifies?

If you’re an individual, you need to be earning less than €14,000 per year (this includes married and pacsé couples).

If you’re a business, you need to have fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding €2 million.

The loan will only be available to those either living in or bordering low-emission zones (zones à faibles émissions mobilité). As of now, there are 12 such zones in France, including the greater Paris area, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, and Nice-Côte d’Azur. These zones are intended to combat air pollution in densely populated areas, and are expected to expand to districts with populations exceeding 150,000 inhabitants by December 2024. 

All cars and vans that weigh less than 2.6 tonnes and emit less than 50 grammes per kilometre will qualify.

More details here.

Why now?

The announcement touches on two key components in French politics – the cost of living and the environment.

Fuel costs have also been at the forefront of French politics since the Yellow Vest movement, which followed proposals to increase taxes on fuel in an effort to decrease fossil fuel consumption, with the war in Ukraine renewing tensions around the cost of fuel. Electric vehicle owners don’t have to worry about fuel costs, but the high price of the vehicles has put off many motorists – there are currently just 165,000 electric vehicles registered in France.

READ ALSO What I learned driving 1,777km through France in an electric car 

Ultimately, the plan will also seek to address concerns raised by the European Union about France’s air pollution levels, after the European Commission found that France failed to “meet its obligation to protect citizens against poor air quality.”

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VIDEO: ‘Lost’ Orca whale heading up France’s Seine river

A young Orca whale that is apparently lost has been spotted heading up the Seine in northern France.

VIDEO: 'Lost' Orca whale heading up France's Seine river

The young whale was first spotted about a week ago near the port of Le Havre, around the Pont de Normandie, while the most recent sighting was further inland – about 20km from Rouen, in the Eure region.

France’s BFMTV managed to catch a video of the whale:

Experts think that the young male was separated from his group, and might be on the search for another. This typically happens when a matriarch in the pod dies.

“They are very social animals, so it is not easy for them to be alone,” explained Delphine Eloi of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group to RTL. Eloi went on to explain that the orca is likely in poor health, as its dorsal fin appears to be completely round. 

Killer whales, which despite their name belong to the dolphin family, are occasionally spotted in the English Channel but such sightings are considered rare, let alone in a river.

“Its life is in danger. We are really very, very worried. Its state of health is very poor,” said Gerard Mauger, vice president of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group. 

“The more it stays in fresh water, the more this will accelerate the degradation of its state of health,” he told AFP.

“It is far from the sea. It is really complicated to find solutions to encourage it to head to salt water.”

He said the animal is “very thin” but likely weighs over a tonne.

Experts have reminded the public that the whale is likely not dangerous to people – there has never been a reported Orca attack on a human in the wild – though it is still advisable to keep a safe distance from it.