France will stop selling petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, France's new Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said Thursday as he presented details of the country's energy strategy.
The ban on gas and diesel is key new President Emmanuel Macron's government meeting France's commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. But the measures are also a response to a pollution crisis in French and European cities, caused by the proliferation of diesel-powered vehicles in recent years. The full extent of their harmful emissions only became apparent after U.S. authorities exposed Volkswagen's fraudulent claims regarding its diesel vehicles' environmental performance in 2015.
The revolution is, in fact, already underway. Swedish automaker Volvo, owned by China's Geely Automotive, said Wednesday it will stop selling cars with traditional internal combustion engines by 2019, and sell only hybrid and pure electric vehicles from then on. Further afield, India has also said it intends to ban sales of traditionally powered vehicles by 2030.
But France is the first big EU country to set a time limit for phasing out gas and diesel entirely. To get there, Hulot said he would create financial incentives for people to trade in older, more polluting vehicles for newer, cleaner ones. He didn't give details.
Separately, Hulot also promised that France will stop generating electricity with fossil fuels by 2022, and cut its dependence on nuclear power to below 50% by 2025.
France's car industry isn't badly placed for the transition to e-mobility: Renault's Zoe is the best-selling electric car in Europe, and Renault also has a strategic partnership with Nissan, maker of the all-electric Leaf. However, they still only account for a tiny fraction of overall sales currently.
Countries across Europe are trying to limit transport-related pollution. In London, U.K., an ultra-low emission zone will be in place from April 2019 where drivers of some diesel cars will be forced to pay a 24 pound ($31 fee a day. In Germany, the government has pledged to put one million electric cars on the road by 2020.