WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The days of the century old combustion engine are numbered as some of the world’s largest car markets turn to electric vehicles instead.
France will follow in the footsteps of Germany and India, who both recently announced plans to end the sales of combustion engines by 2030, and will introduce a ban on sales from 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its Paris Climate Accord agreements.
The announcement comes only a few weeks after Volvo announced it will only make fully electric, or hybrid cars, from 2019 onwards, and all of these announcements are, unsurprisingly, being hailed as the beginning of the end for the combustion engine which has dominated the transportation industry form more than a century.
“We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040,” said Nicolas Hulot, France’s new ecology minister, adding that the move was a “veritable revolution”.
He said it would be a “tough” objective for carmakers but France’s industry was well equipped to make the switch.
“Our car makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise … which is also a public health issue.”
Hulot insisted that the decision was a question of public health policy and “a way to fight against air pollution,” and the veteran environmental campaigner.
Meanwhile Pascal Canfin, the head of WWF France and a former Green politician who served in François Hollande’s government, said the new policy to counter climate change went further than previous administrations attempts ever had.
“It places France among the leaders of climate action in the world,” he told France Inter radio.
“The timescale involved here is sufficiently long term to be taken seriously. If enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars,” said Prof David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston University in the UK.
Further north Norway, which has the highest penetration of electric cars in the world, recently set its own ambitious target – of only allowing sales of 100 percent electric or plug in hybrid cars by 2025. And other countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK, by 2025 and 2040 respectively, have also floated the idea of banning combustion engine powered cars, but unlike the others nations they haven’t yet passed any formal legislation.
“I welcome the strong leadership the French government has shown by making the decision to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. This radical step shames the timid and insufficient response of our own government to the health threat posed by poor air quality,” said Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
France’s announcement comes hot on the heels of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance Report that predicts electric cars will come to dominate the automotive market more quickly and dramatically than previously thought – where have I heard that about technology before? Hmmm let me think, oh yes, that’s right, almost everywhere… Anyway back to the story…
It’s thought that electric vehicles will make up 54% of all light duty vehicle sales by 2040, up from the 35% share Bloomberg was forecasting just last year and Bloomberg said such a widespread uptake of electric vehicles would globally reduce oil demand by 8m barrels a day and increase electricity consumption by 5% to charge all the new cars.
But Tony Seba, a Stanford University economist who has published research predicting electric cars will even more rapidly take over from conventional cars, said of France’s plan: “Banning sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040 is a bit like banning sales of horses for road transportation by 2040 – there won’t be any to ban.”
French car manufacturers Peugeot, Citroën and Renault ranked first, second and third on a 2016 list of large car manufacturers with the lowest carbon emissions, the European Environment Agency said, but just 0.6% of new car registrations across the EU last year were for pure electric vehicles, compared with 1.1% of new cars sold in France.
French-Japanese carmaker Renault-Nissan has been an enthusiastic early advocate for the vehicles, taking 14.6% of the EU market share for battery-powered vehicles, and so far the firm has built 425,000 of the more than 2m electric cars sold globally.
France’s reliance on nuclear power stations for 80% of its electricity supply means that a shift to electric vehicles rather than oil-powered ones would also dramatically cut its remaining carbon emissions, putting the goals of the Paris Climate Accord in reach, which leaves us just one question to ask – what will we do when we can all go outside and breathe fresh air, or cycle around the streets of London without getting soot on our faces? Flannel and towlette sales will crash and children could run wild – is this the start of anarchy?