A photo of dozens of cars parked snugly in a field is getting, shall we say, traffic on social media as users share this description of the image: “This is France. They bought electric cars for civil servants. But it was too expensive to replace the batteries. And THIS is the Green New Plan to save our country.”
A reverse image search of the photo turned up many unsourced blog posts, as well as fact-checks from when this picture was circulating online more than a year ago.
The upshot: this photo was taken in China, not France, and it doesn’t show the former vehicles of French civil servants that were dumped because the car batteries died.
A post sharing the image was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
In the photograph, Chinese license plates can be seen, as can a watermark in the image’s bottom right corner crediting a photographer who goes by the name Greg Abandoned. The photographer posted the picture on his Instagram account on June 19, 2021. He photographs abandoned things and places in China and elsewhere around the world, and a similar image to the one being shared on Facebook is the cover of his book, “Abandoned China,” which he describes on his website as “an album of pictures and stories from abandoned locations, collected from over 3 years of exploring in China from 2018 to 2021.”
Though his Instagram post doesn’t identify where the cars were photographed — “I don’t share locations, please respect that,” the post says — news outlets have published similar pictures of the same kinds of of cars with the same buildings in the background in Hangzhou, China.
In 2019, the South China Morning Post reported that “thousands of unused electric cars were seen parked alongside a river on the outskirts of Hangzhou” and that they belonged to an electric car rental company called Microcity. The company is among hundreds of car-sharing companies that have emerged in China in recent years, the Morning Post said, and several such startups have since shuttered.
We found no evidence that the cars in the photo were abandoned because of the cost of replacing their batteries, as the Facebook post says. Microcity’s former brand manager, Lou Gaofeng, told Agence France-Presse in 2021 that the cars in the posted photo “belonged to Hangzhou Microcity.” He said not all the Microcity electric cars parked in the region were defective. “Some of them had problems, some could still be used, others were old enough to be sold to another company and disassembled.”
We previously fact-checked a claim about a different photo that was described as showing a “boneyard” of electric cars abandoned in France because the cars’ batteries were too expensive to replace. They were vehicles that belonged to a French car-sharing service that also failed, and the cars were being resold or sold for parts.
We rate claims that this photo shows electric cars abandoned by French civil servants because of dead batteries False.