UK to outlaw gas and diesel vehicles by 2040

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No fossil fuels, please–we’re British. 

That’s the message put out by the United Kingdom’s Environment Minister, Michael Gove, earlier today. Speaking to BBC Radio, Gove said that the U.K. plans to outlaw the sale of vehicles that run solely on gas or diesel by the year 2040.

Completely details of that plan haven’t been announced. However, it appears that gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks already on the road in 2040 would still be allowed to operate. 

And while the U.K. government would prioritize fully electric vehicles, Gove said that sales of hybrids would still be allowed. What sorts battery range and fuel economy benchmarks those vehicles might have to meet is anyone’s guess.

To speed the transition to hybrids and electrics, Gove said that the government would likely launch a cash-for-clunkers-style program, giving car owners incentives to trade in their gas and diesel vehicles for models with lower (or no) emissions. 

If all this sounds a bit familiar, that’s probably because France’s Environmental Minister, Nicolas Hulot, made a similar announcement earlier this month. Like Gove, Hulot plans to outlaw the sale of gas and diesel vehicles in France by 2040. 

Hulot’s move–and likely Gove’s, too–came in response to president Donald Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. As Hulot said at the time, “France has decided to become carbon neutral by 2050 following the US decision.”

If the U.K. copies-and-pastes France’s plan, it will probably offer low-income families assistance to help them sell their older vehicles and purchase newer, more efficient models. 

The beginning of a trend

Neither France nor the U.K. are the first to propose banning cars and trucks that rely solely on internal combustion engines. Both Norway and the Netherlands have already begun encouraging residents to switch to efficient vehicles, with plans to outlaw cars and trucks that run on fossil fuels as soon as 2025. Germany–home to much of Europe’s auto industry–has considered following suit.

And the world’s most populous nation, China, is trying desperately to become the world leader in electric vehicles. So far, it’s done so by offering incentives to new-car buyers to make EVs more attractive, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a ban on gas or diesel vehicles before long.  

Automakers are slightly more cautious, given the low price of fuel these days, which has hindered the sale of electrics and hybrids. However, Volvo recently announced that by 2019, all of its new models would be electrified. And with the long, slow death of “clean diesel”–once believed to be the key to lowering greenhouse gas emissions–other car companies could broaden their battery-based lineup soon (especially if battery prices continue to fall).

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Department of Transportation announced this week that it may soon lower fuel efficiency standards, starting with the 2021 model year. Until that time, the DOT may also loosen the rules for automakers, allowing them to reach existing benchmarks through a broader set of means.

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