The United Kingdom will halt sales of new vehicles with diesel and gasoline engines by 2040 as a way to fight pollution, government officials have announced.
The U.K. is set to become the latest country to make such a move, joining nations as diverse as India and Norway, with several other countries considering similar bans. The action by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May comes even as Republican U.S. President Donald Trump’s Administration is reportedly set to roll back strict mileage rules set to phase in between now and 2025.
Michael Gove, the British environmental minister, told BBC Radio that “we are confirming that that means there should be no new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040.”
Prime Minister May’s government is aiming to make most cars and vans in the country zero-emission by 2050 by getting rid of those models already on the road using internal combustion technology. Her government is also proposing to spend $332.5 million to help local governments reduce transit-related emissions, BBC News reports.
Electric cars now account for only 5% of new registrations in the UK, according to the latest figures.
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The HIll, a Washington D.C-based newsletter focused on politics, noted the U.K.’s announcement adds more momentum to a European push to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
France also is considering a ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040, and the mayors of several large cities, notably including Paris, say they want to ban diesel vehicles even sooner.
“It’s a very difficult objective. But the solutions are there,” French Environmental Minister Nicolas Hulot said earlier this month, ahead of the opening of the G20 conference in Hamburg, Germany.
As TheDetroitBureau.com previously reported, there is a growing list of countries seeking to switch entirely to zero-emissions technologies. That includes Norway, where one in three vehicles now being registered uses either a plug-in hybrid or pure battery-electric powertrain. Norway hopes to go completely electric by 2025.
India has also laid out plans to go fully zero-emissions by 2030, though experts question whether the country could get there so quickly considering it is still struggling to build up even its basic automotive infrastructure.
German officials have also been debating a possible internal combustion engine ban, though no hard legislation has yet been enacted.
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China is also laying out an ambitious plan to promote the use of electric vehicles in the years to come, though it has been facing a strong pushback from the auto industry which argues that consumer demand isn’t there, nor is there the necessary infrastructure to support a large growth in plug-based vehicles.
Even in the United States, which along with Russia could wind up as the holdout in a global move towards EVs, sales of electric vehicles are expected to overtake those of cars with internal combustion engines within 20 years.
But while the Obama Administration had been a strong proponent of electrified vehicle technology, the Trump White House appears to be moving in reverse. It has floated a proposal to freeze current fuel economy standards through the 2021 model year, while it reviews the 2022 -2025 fuel economy standards.
U.S. sales of plug-based and conventional models have declined for the last three years, in part due to cheap gasoline, experts contend. But demand has begun to rebound this year, apparently reflecting the arrival of less expensive, longer-range plug-based models, such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the new Tesla Model 3. Tesla hopes to be selling 500,000 vehicles in 2018 worldwide, a six-fold increase from its 2016 numbers.
Up until now, there have been several drawbacks limiting both the appeal of battery-based vehicles and the potential for governments to mandate their use. But prices are falling, range is rapidly increasing, and new battery chemistry and charging technologies are reducing the time needed to “fill” back up.
The Trump administration is taking heat for its position, especially in light of the actions being taken in many other countries.
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“This short-sighted thinking by the administration, certain members of Congress and the auto companies ignores global market realities and consumer demand for better mileage. We hope the administration and our Congress stays clear of any roll back or stagnation that forces American families into cars that cost them more,” said Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America, during a news conference announcing the release of a survey showing intense support by American consumers for stricter mileage mandates.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)