A little particular, this article is above all a portrait which wants to recall the great implication of Charlotte de Silguy in the development of electric mobility in our country. This passionate about Chinese culture and wisdom has an original idea about the arrival in France and Europe of brands like MG, BYD, Nio, etc.
Let’s go to Charlotte…
Being a journalist specializing in sustainable and electric mobility at the birth of the lithium-ion wave offers a big advantage: today being able to give the floor ten years after a first interview. I had already done it last November with one of the first French owners of Tesla Model S. I wanted to repeat the exercise with Charlotte de Silguy, general secretary of Avere-France from September 2008 for almost five years.
I had contacted her for another medium in October 2013, a few months after the end of this function. If today this association is also focused on the use of electric vehicles from the point of view of motorists, it is largely thanks to her.
« From 1994, I had this vision of the interest of electric vehicles with the desire to work for its development. I arrived at the right time at Avere-France. We were in the midst of a financial crisis with subprime mortgages and the price of a barrel of oil at 100 dollars. It was during this period that the electric car began to lose its image of poor pie to look at it in a less contemptuous way ».
Move in two directions
Charlotte de Silguy has given Avere-France a facelift and a new direction: ” The role I gave myself was to make proposals to the board of directors. At the time, the association only brought together about twenty members, only large structures, including EDF, Renault, PSA, Saft, and the city of Paris. The operation of the structure was very focused on technology and local communities ».
Today, the organization’s website announces 240 members: ” Their number had already risen to around a hundred when I left in 2013. I had opened the door to all those involved in electric mobility, including the little ones. I wanted to develop communication with the general public to demystify the EV. At that time, for example, I met Yoann who was looking for support to launch Automobile Propre. It was also important to communicate with the institutions ».
The exercise was not always very simple: I had to juggle a lot. The big members weren’t particularly keen on opening up to the general public. In 2008, mass purchases of electric vehicles came from institutions ».
In 2023, the face of electric car owners has changed and that’s encouraging
Electric mobility in the acceptance phase
The former secretary general of Avere-France remembers well the various strong moments she initiated: ” For example, I created the electromobile cities trophy. As well as a kind of club for companies that has not been more than a season. I also refreshed the website which really needed it and upgraded the newsletter to open it to the outside world. Helped by Jean-Patrick Teyssaire, founder of Planète Verte and Electric Road more recently, I offered a watch on all the news in terms of electromobility ».
Lobbying was also on the agenda: “ I contacted ministries, communities and launched thematic work plans. Batteries or last-mile deliveries, for example, were among the recurring topics. In this period, there were many opponents, who sinned out of ignorance or because electromobility was likely to harm their own business. This is still somewhat the case today ».
For her, it’s normal to encounter resistance at the start of new technologies: ” It was the same for film cameras, when digital appeared. As the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said: ‘All truth passes through three stages, first it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed and finally it is accepted as evidence. Regarding electric mobility, we are in the third phase ».
Arguments in favor of connected mobility
What distinguishes Charlotte de Silguy’s discourse on electric mobility from others is the absence of CO2: ” This is not a subject for me and I have spoken about it very little, perhaps never. The major problems that the electric vehicle can solve are pollution in cities, noise pollution, geopolitical tensions due to oil. Not to mention the financial aspect. In my conferences with town halls or deputies, I first put forward reasonable and rational arguments ».
And after ? ” I drew attention to the use, emphasizing that the electric car was not a car without a license. I said to them: ‘Let the enjoyment of power express itself in you in silence’. The audience was laughing. But I insisted: ‘Try it, that’s what will make you want to drive it. It was necessary to succeed in multiplying the followers ».
The former general secretary stopped the charge in April 2013: It is not without reason. Failing to have free rein, I felt very strongly called to pursue another mission. In all my professional activities, I am atypical and far ahead of my time. Thus for sustainable development, Chinese markets and bringing things that are not usually allowed in companies. such as meditation ».
Electricity as a gift
Since his Citroën Saxo covered with stickers of small flowers and which I saw stranded at Accus Service in Pessacnear Bordeaux, in April 2016, Charlotte de Silguy has never stopped driving electric: “ This Saxo belonged to EDF. I then had a second one that I bought for 3,000 euros and sold for another 700 euros four years later due to demand. Then I tested a prototype of the Volkswagen e-Golf. I quickly returned it when I learned of its value of around one million euros. I was not comfortable with it ».
Renault Zoe, Opel Ampera, Citroën C-Zero, etc. : “ The list of all the models of electric cars that have passed through my hands, especially in the form of loans, would be too long to establish. In 2011, I had one of the 50 Mini Es stuffed with feedback sensors that were used to bring out the BMW i3. The first EV I bought for myself was a Nissan Leaf ».
And today ? ” Since December 2021, I have had a Tesla Model 3. It’s a gift I gave myself to reward myself for everything I’ve done for the electric vehicle. A way also to overcome personal limits. And above all a real need for regular trips between Nantes and Paris that I could not achieve by train ».
Getting ahead in personal life
Charlotte de Silguy has created her own company in full confinement: “ I invented a method, relying on ancient wisdom, based on protocol found in Taoism. It is about finding the life forces for our success and personal fulfillment. I supported the electric car to propel itself in an ecological and healthy way. Now I invite you to harness your own energy to propel yourself through life. It’s always a question of propulsion ».
Its current activity is the result of a long process: ” It took me 30 years to lay this current to understand the meaning of our shit, of our shadows, of what pollutes us and which is not there for nothing, but on the contrary to propel us “. His coaching is aimed at individuals and professionals: ” For the general public, I created the Chrysalis Effect. I also coach coaches through Alchemical Coaching »
Our interlocutor had already wanted to combine electric vehicles and well-being: “ It was when I came back to EDF, between 2014 and 2020. I was already at EDF before, seconded to Avere-France. My way of doing and being seems too atypical in this environment which prefers an engineer and dogmatic mode of operation. What I failed there, I do elsewhere. It’s my thing to be a pioneer, to guide, to clear the ground ».
Chinese electric cars
In the early 1990s, for EDF, Charlotte de Silguy lived for a few years in Taiwan and Beijing, and even tried out a BYD prototype. What does she think of the massive arrival of Chinese electric cars in Europe and France: ” Is it good or not good? Nothing is good or bad in itself. It depends on the resulting dynamic. Every challenge is a source of opportunity ».
Why this success of models like the MG4? ” There are two possible reasons for such a phenomenon. Either the quality, price, performance ratio is excellent, or the French manufacturers would not be good enough to do the same. In this second case, they should be stimulated. Anyway, if Chinese electric cars are successful in France, it is because they correspond to a need that is not satisfied by our manufacturers. ».
She asks: Why isn’t the origin of smartphones and computers so pointed out? Because they are smaller products? The subject is in any case delicate. Globalization has perverse effects, particularly at the social level. But also offers opportunities. Why do these cars that we didn’t want to homologate suddenly appear? Are there trade issues at the international level, such as ‘I’ll trade you tea for something else’ ? ».
The situation in 2023: “ The charging network is now well established, meeting autonomy needs. French motorists now want to go electric. European EV prices remain too high. The key word is: ‘If we see a problem, let’s see the opportunity that comes with it. In boxing you get punched. In kung fu, we welcome the opposing energy to transfer it and return it ».
Take advantage of situations: Everything has its dark sides and its bright sides. When a dynamic that we do not want is created, the local ends up taking on more and more importance. Thus the appearance of Amap following agricultural productivism. I like to see the positive dynamic that can arise from something perceived as dark at the start. ».
A little enlightening story: At the time when the Blue River and the Yellow River were the cause of terrible floods in China, sandbags were piled up to form dykes. But when those restraints let go, real devastating power was unleashed. On the contrary, Yu the Great said to himself that it was necessary to go in the direction of the current, and to dig the bed of these rivers to facilitate the flow of water. Faced with a very strong energy, either we try to hold it back at the risk that it blows us up in the face, or we make it an opportunity ».
Automobile Propre and I would like to thank Charlotte de Silguy very much for her welcome, her sympathy and her answers. See you in 2033.