6 automakers and 30 countries announce they will phase out sales of gasoline-powered cars

GLASGOW – At least six major automakers – including Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Volvo – and 30 national governments on Wedne...


GLASGOW – At least six major automakers – including Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Volvo – and 30 national governments on Wednesday pledged to work towards phasing out sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 in the world, and by 2035 in “leading markets.

But some of the world’s largest automakers, including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Nissan-Renault alliance have not joined the pledge, which is not legally binding. And the governments of the United States, China and Japan, three of the largest auto markets, have also abstained.

The announcement, made during international climate negotiations here, has been hailed by climate advocates as another sign that the days of the internal combustion engine may soon be numbered. Electric vehicles continue to set new global sales records every year and major automakers have recently started investing tens of billions of dollars to re-equip their factories and produce new battery-powered cars and light trucks.

“The fact that these major players are making these commitments, even though we have to make sure they stick to them, is really important,” said Margo Oge, a former senior US air quality official who now advises the both environmental groups and automakers. “It really tells us that these companies and their boards of directors accept that the future is electric.”

The automakers who signed the pledge accounted for around a quarter of global sales in 2019.

The 30 countries that joined the coalition included Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden. Earlier tally, based on press releases from conference organizers, had placed the number of national governments at 29 and 31.

India’s addition was particularly notable, as it is the world’s fourth largest auto market and has not previously committed to eliminating emissions from its cars within a specific time frame.

Other countries promise for the first time to sell only zero emission vehicles on a fixed date included Turkey, Croatia, Ghana and Rwanda.

California, New York State and Washington State also signed the pledge. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed a decree saying only new zero-emission vehicles would be sold in the state by 2035, although regulators have yet to release rules for that to happen. New York Governor Kathy Hochul enacted a bill that set a similar target earlier this year. Washington had never made such a formal promise.

The agreement states that automakers “will strive to achieve 100% sales of new zero-emission cars and vans in major markets by 2035 or earlier, supported by a business strategy consistent with achieving this. ambition, as we help strengthen customer demand. “

Zero-emission vehicles could include either plug-in electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, although the latter have struggled to gain market share. Electric cars can still indirectly produce emissions if, for example, they are recharged with electricity from power plants that burn coal or natural gas. But they are generally considered cleaner overall than vehicles with combustion engines and do not create pollution from their exhaust pipes.

Two dozen vehicle fleet operators, including Uber and LeasePlan, have also joined the coalition, pledging to operate only zero-emission vehicles by 2030, “or sooner where markets permit.” .

Worldwide, transport represents approximately one fifth of humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions that are responsible for climate change, just under half of which comes from passenger vehicles such as cars and vans.

In recent years, spurred by concerns about global warming and air pollution, governments around the world – including China, the United States and the European Union – have started to heavily subsidize electric vehicles and to impose stricter emission standards on new gasoline and diesel engines. cars.

The cost of lithium-ion batteries has also fallen about 80 percent since 2013, according to BloombergNEF, an energy research group, making electric vehicles increasingly competitive with traditional combustion-engined vehicles, although many consumers remain wary of the new technology due to concerns such as the availability of charging stations.

“We have the technology to make clean road transport a reality and today it is clear that we have the will to do it over the next decade,” said Nigel Topping, who has been appointed by the UK government to the United Nations to be a “high level champion of climate action.

Some of the automakers who signed the deal had already pledged to clean the cars they produce. GM said in January that it aimed to stop selling new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by 2035 and will pivot to battery-powered vehicles. Volvo had said it expected its range of cars to be fully electric by 2030.

But the pledge seemed to engage some of the signatories to do more than they had previously promised. Ford, which this year introduced an electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck, had previously said it expected 40% of its global fleet to be electric by 2030.

“We are now striving to deliver revolutionary electric vehicles for the many rather than the few,” said Cynthia Williams, global director of sustainability at Ford.

The other two automakers that signed the pledge were BYD, a Chinese automaker that made major breakthroughs selling electric cars in Europe, as well as Jaguar Land Rover.

Some of the major automakers that have not signed the deal are nonetheless investing heavily in electric vehicle technology. Volkswagen, which confessed six years ago to rigging its diesel cars to cover up illegally high emissions, has since sketched plans to spend tens of billions of dollars to build six battery factories, install a global network of charging stations and deploy more than 80 new electric models by 2025.

Nicolai Laude, a spokesperson for Volkswagen, said that while the German automaker was committed to moving quickly to electric vehicles, it did not adhere to the new commitment because the global nature of its business meant it had to be aware that “regions developing at different speeds combine with different local prerequisites, different paths” towards zero emissions.

Toyota, the world’s best-selling automaker in 2020, was also absent from the list of signatories, although this year it announced plans to sell 15 electric vehicle models globally by 2025. The automaker Japanese has been more careful with electric vehicle technology, continuing to focus on alternatives such as fuel cell vehicles running on hydrogen.

Toyota did not immediately comment.

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