Phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles
The phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles is one of the two most important parts of the general fossil fuel phase-out process, the other being the phase-out of fossil fuel power plants for electricity generation.
More than 14 countries and over 20 cities around the world have proposed banning the sale of passenger vehicles (primarily cars and buses) powered by fossil fuels such as petrol, liquefied petroleum gas and diesel at some time in the future. Synonyms for the bans include phrases like "banning gas cars", "banning petrol cars", "the petrol and diesel car ban", or simply "the diesel ban". Another method of phase-out is the use of zero-emission zones in cities.
Reasons for banning further sale of fossil fuel vehicles include: reducing health risks from pollution particulates, notably diesel PM10s and other emissions, notably nitrogen oxides; meeting national greenhouse gas, such as CO2, targets under international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement; or energy independence. The intent to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels is attractive to governments as it offers a simpler compliance target, compared with a carbon tax or phase-out of fossil fuels.
The automotive industry is working to introduce electric vehicles to adapt to bans  with varying success and it is seen by some in the industry as a possible source of money in a declining market. A 2020 study from Eindhoven University of Technology showed that the manufacturing emissions of batteries of new electric cars are much smaller than what was assumed in the 2017 IVL study[note 1] (around 75 kg CO2/kWh) and that the lifespan of lithium batteries is also much longer than previously thought (at least 12 years with a mileage of 15,000 km annually). As such, they are more ecological than internal combustion cars powered by diesel or petrol.
There is some opposition to simply moving from fossil-fuel powered cars to electric cars, as they would still require a large proportion of urban land. On the other hand, there are many types of (electric) vehicles that take up little space, such as (cargo) bicycles and electric motorcycles and scooters. Making cycling and walking over short distances, especially in urban areas, more attractive and feasible with measures such as removing roads and parking spaces and improving cycling infrastructure and footpaths (including pavements), provides a partial alternative to replacing all fossil-fuelled vehicles by electric vehicles. Although there are as yet very few completely carfree cities (such as Venice), several are banning all cars in parts of the city, such as city centers.
The banning of fossil-fuelled vehicles of a defined scope requires authorities to enact legislation that restricts them in a certain way. Proposed methods include:
- A prohibition on further sales or registration of new vehicles powered with specific fuels from a certain date in a certain area. At the date of implementation existing vehicles would remain legal to drive on public highways.
- A prohibition on the importation of new vehicles powered with specific fuels from a certain date into a certain area. This is planned or in force in countries such as Denmark, Israel and Switzerland.
- A prohibition on any use of certain vehicles powered with specific fuels from a certain date within a certain area. Restrictions such as these are already in place in many European cities, usually in the context of their low-emission zones (LEZs).
Whereas countries may choose to ban only vehicles running on fossil fuels, in practice they often ban sales or importation of all internal combustion engine (ICE) cars (see table below). However, there are several alternative fuel vehicles which use non-fossil fuels, but still rely on an internal combustion engine (such as hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicles (HICEVs)) and these are also negatively impacted. Fuel cell (electric) vehicles (FCVs or FCEVs) also allow running on (some) non-fossil fuels (i.e., hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, ...).
Cities generally use the introduction of low-emission zones (LEZs) or zero-emission zones (ZEZs), sometimes with an accompanying air quality certificate sticker such as Crit'air (France), in order to restrict the use of fossil-fuelled cars in some or all of its territory. These zones have been growing in number, size and strictness in the 2010s. Some city bans in countries such as Italy, Germany and Switzerland are only temporarily activated during particular times of the day, during winter, or when there is a smog alert (for example, in Italy in January 2020); these do not directly contribute to the phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles, but they make owning and using such vehicles less attractive as their utility is restricted.
Some countries have given consumers various incentives such as subsidies or tax breaks in order to stimulate the purchase of electric vehicles, while fossil-fuelled vehicles are taxed increasingly heavily.
Places with planned fossil-fuel vehicle bans
Countries and large jurisdictions
Countries with proposed bans or implementing 100% sales of zero-emissions vehicles include China, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the 12 U.S. states that adhered to California's Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program, Sri Lanka, Cabo Verde, and Costa Rica.
In 2018, Denmark proposed an EU-wide prohibition on petrol and diesel cars, but that turned out to be contrary to EU regulations. In October 2019, Denmark made a proposal for phasing out fossil fuel vehicles on the member state level by 2030 and was supported by 10 other EU member states.
|Austria||2027||government plan||Non-electric||Newly registered taxis, car shares and hire cars|
|Belgium||2026||Diesel, Petrol||New company cars|
|California||2035||Emitting||New vehicle sales|
|Canada||2040||climate plan||Emitting||New vehicle sales|
|China||researching a timetable||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Costa Rica||2050||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Denmark||2030–35||Diesel, petrol||New vehicle sales (2030), all vehicle use (2035).|
|Egypt||2040||ICE[note 2]||New vehicle sales|
|France||2040||climate plan||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Iceland||2030||climate plan||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|India||2030||government target||Non-electric||All vehicles|
|Ireland||2030||government bill||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Israel||2030||Diesel, petrol||New imported vehicles|
|Japan||2035||Diesel, petrol||New vehicle sales|
|Netherlands||2030||coalition agreement||Diesel, petrol||All cars|
|Norway||2025||tax and usage incentives||Diesel, petrol||All cars|
|Singapore||2040||incentives on electric vehicles||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles|
|Slovenia||2030||emission limit of 50 g/km||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Spain||2040||ICE||New vehicle sales|
|Sri Lanka||2040||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles|
|Sweden||2030||coalition agreement||Diesel, petrol||New car sales|
|Taiwan||2040||Diesel, petrol||All bus use (2030), all motorcycle sales (2035), all car sales (2040).|
|United Kingdom||2030, 2035 (plug-in hybrid)||Non-electric||New car sales|
Cities and territories
|European emission standards|
|Euro 0||Euro 1||Euro 2||Euro 3||Euro 4||Euro 5||Euro 6|
Some cities or territories have planned or taken measures to partially or entirely phase out fossil fuel vehicles earlier than their national governments. In some cases, this is achieved through local or regional government initiatives, in other cases through legal challenges brought on by citizens or civil organisations enforcing partial phase-outs based on the right to clean air.
Some cities listed have signed the Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, committing to ban emitting vehicles by 2030, but this does not necessarily have force of law in those jurisdictions. The bans typically apply to a select number of streets in the urban centre of the city where most people live, not to its entire territory. Some cities take a gradual approach to prohibit the most polluting categories of vehicles first, then the next-most polluting, all the way up to a complete ban on all fossil-fuel vehicles; some cities have not yet set a deadline for a complete ban, and/or are waiting for the national government to set such a date.
In California, emissions requirements for automakers to be permitted to sell any vehicles in the state was expected to force 15% of new vehicles offered for sale between 2018 and 2025 to be zero emission. Much cleaner emissions and increased efficiency in petrol engines mean this will be met with just 8% ZEV vehicles. The "Ditching Dirt Diesel" law SB 44 sponsored by Nancy Skinner and adopted on 20 September 2019 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to 'create a comprehensive strategy for deploying medium- and heavy-duty vehicles' to make California meet federal ambient air quality standards, and 'establish goals and spur technology advancements for reducing GHG emissions from the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sectors by 2030 and 2050'. It stops short of directly requiring a phase-out of all diesel vehicles by 2050 (as the original bill did), but it would be the most obvious means of achieving the reduction goals.
In the European Union, Council Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management and Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality form the legal basis for EU citizens' right to clean air. On 25 July 2008 in the case Dieter Janecek v Freistaat Bayern CURIA, the European Court of Justice ruled that under Directive 96/62/EC citizens have the right to require national authorities to implement a short-term action plan that aims to maintain or achieve compliance to air quality limit values. The ruling of the German Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig of 5 September 2013 significantly strengthened the right of environmental associations and consumer protection organisations to sue local authorities to enforce compliance with air quality limits throughout an entire city. The Administrative Court of Wiesbaden declared on 30 June 2015 that financial or economic aspects were not a valid excuse to refrain from taking measures to ensure that the limit values were observed, the Administrative Court of Düsseldorf ruled on 13 September 2016 that driving bans on certain diesel vehicles were legally possible in order to comply with the limit values as quickly as possible, and on 26 July 2017 the Administrative Court of Stuttgart ordered the state of Baden-Württemberg to consider a year-round ban on diesel-powered vehicles. By mid-February 2018, citizens in the EU member states the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom were suing their governments for violating the limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of breathable air as stipulated in the Ambient Air Quality Directive.
A landmark ruling by the German Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig on 27 February 2018 declared that the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf were allowed to legally prohibited older, more polluting diesel vehicles from driving in zones worst affected by pollution, rejecting appeals made by German states against the bans imposed by the two cities' local courts. The case was strongly influenced by the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal (also known as Dieselgate), which in 2015 revealed that many Volkswagen diesel engines were deceptively tested and marketed as much cleaner than they were. The decision was predicted to set a precedent for other places in the country and in Europe. Indeed, the ruling triggered a wave of dozens of local diesel restrictions, brought about by Environmental Action Germany (DUH) suing city authories and winning legal challenges across Germany. While some groups and parties such as the AfD again tried to overturn them, others such as the Greens advocated for a national phaseout of diesel cars by 2030. On 13 December 2018, the European Court of Justice overturned a 2016 European Commission relaxation of car NOx emission limits to 168 mg/km, which the Court declared illegal. This allowed the cities of Brussels, Madrid and Paris, who had filed the complaint, to proceed with their plans to also reject Euro 6 diesel vehicles from their urban centres, based on the original 80 mg/km limit set by EU law.[note 3]
|City or territory||Country||Ban announced||Ban commences||Scope||Details|
|Aachen||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Older diesel vehicles (2019), unless pollution reduces.|
|Amsterdam||Netherlands||2019||2030||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel cars (2020), non-electric buses (2022), pleasure crafts and (light) mopeds (2025), all vehicles (2030).|
|Antwerp||Belgium||2016||2017–25||Diesel, lpg, petrol||Euro I–II diesels and 0 petrol/lpg (2017), Euro III diesels and 1 petrol/lpg (2020), Euro IV diesels and 2 petrol/lpg (2025).|
|Arnhem||Netherlands||201?, 2018||2014–19||Diesel||Euro I–III diesel trucks (2014), all Euro I–III diesel vehicles (2019)*.[note 4]|
|Auckland||New Zealand||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Balearic Islands||Spain||2018||2025−35||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles|
|Barcelona||Spain||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Berlin||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Euro I–V diesel vehicles (2019).|
|Bonn||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Older diesel vehicles (2019).|
|Bristol||United Kingdom||2019||2021||Diesel||All private vehicles (city center from 7 am to 3 pm)|
|British Columbia||Canada||2018||2025||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles by 2040, 10% ZEVs by 2025|
|Brussels Region||Belgium||2018||2030–35||Diesel, petrol||Euro 0–I diesels (2018), Euro II diesels and 0–1 petrols (2019), all diesel vehicles (2030), all petrol vehicles (2035).|
|California||United States||2020||2035||Net-emitting vehicles||All passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks.|
|Cape Town||South Africa||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Cologne||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Older diesel vehicles (2019).|
|Copenhagen||Denmark||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Darmstadt||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Euro I–V diesel vehicles on two streets (2019).|
|Düsseldorf||Germany||20??||2014||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2014).|
|Eindhoven||Netherlands||2020||2030||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel trucks (2007), Euro I–III diesel buses (2021), Euro IV diesel trucks (2022), all Euro IV diesel vehicles (2025), all vehicles (2030).|
|Essen||Germany||2018||20??||Diesel||Older diesel vehicles.|
|Frankfurt||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel||Euro I–V diesel vehicles and Euro 1–2 petrol vehicles (2019).|
|Gelsenkirchen||Germany||2018||20??||Diesel||Older diesel vehicles.|
|Ghent||Belgium||2016||2020–2028||Diesel, lpg, petrol||Euro I–III diesel and 1 petrol/lpg (2020)*, Euro IV–V diesel and 2–3 petrol/lpg (2025–28)*.[note 5]|
|Hainan||China||2018||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles|
|Hamburg||Germany||2018||2018||Diesel||Euro I–V diesel vehicles in one street, older diesel trucks in another street (2020).|
|Heidelberg||Germany||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Lausanne||Switzerland||2021||2030||Thermic vehicles||Zero mobility-related direct emissions|
|Lombardy||Italy||2018||2019–2020||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel and Euro 1 petrol (1 April 2019), Euro IV diesel (1 October 2020).|
|London||United Kingdom||2017||2020–30||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025 (two zero emissions zones by 2022)|
|Los Angeles||United States||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Madrid||Spain||2016||2025||Diesel||Euro I–III diesel and Euro 1–2 petrol vehicles (2018), all vehicles (2025).|
|Massachusetts||United States||2020||2035||Diesel, petrol||Will set equivalent regulations to match California's Advanced Clean Cars Program|
|Mainz||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2019).|
|Mexico City||Mexico||2016||2025||Diesel||All vehicles|
|Milan||Italy||2017||2030||Diesel||All diesel vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Moscow||Russia||20??, 2019||2013–20?||Non-electric||Euro I–IV bus purchases (2013), all non-electric bus purchases (2021), Euro I–III vehicles (20??), all non-electric vehicles (20??).|
|Munich||Germany||20??||2012||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2012).|
|New York City||United States||2020||2040||Non-electric vehicles||All vehicles owned or operated by New York City|
|Nijmegen||Netherlands||2018||2021||Diesel||Euro I–III diesel cars (2021).|
|Oslo||Norway||2019||2030||Emitting||City centre fossil-free (2024), entire city fossil-free (2030).|
|Oxford||United Kingdom||2017||2020−35||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles (initially during daytime hours on six streets)|
|Quebec||Canada||2020||2035||Diesel, petrol||Ban of new gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035.|
|Quito||Ecuador||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Rome||Italy||2018||2024||Diesel||All vehicles, only from historical center|
|Rotterdam||Netherlands||2015||2016||Diesel||Euro I–III diesel trucks (2016). Other bans were dropped in 2019.|
|Seattle||United States||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Stuttgart||Germany||2018||2019–20||Diesel||Euro I–IV diesel vehicles (2019), Euro V diesel vehicles (2020).|
|The Hague||Netherlands||2019||2030||Diesel, petrol||Two-stroke mopeds (2020), Euro I–III diesel vehicles (2021), all vehicles (2030).|
|Utrecht||Netherlands||2013, 2020||2030||Diesel, petrol||Pre-2001 diesel vehicles from 2015, pre-2004 diesels from 2021, pre-2009 (Euro I–IV) diesels from 2025, all vehicles from 2030.|
|Vancouver||Canada||2017||2030||Diesel, petrol||All vehicles, electric buses by 2025|
|Wallonia||Belgium||2018||2023–30||Diesel, petrol||Euro 0–I (2023), Euro II (2024), Euro III (2025), Euro IV (2026), Euro V diesel vehicles (2028), Euro VI diesel vehicles (2030).|
|Wiesbaden||Germany||2018||2019||Diesel, petrol||Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2019).|
Second-hand vehicle dumping
As more fossil fuel vehicles are discarded in certain countries or regions (e.g., the European Union due to the European Green Deal), more and more of these vehicles end up in developing countries. In the case of the European Union, there is already an export market which includes millions of used cars which are sent to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, central Asia and Africa. According to UNECE, the global on-road vehicle fleet is to double by 2050 (from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion, see introduction), with most future car purchases taking place in developing countries. Some experts even mention that the number of vehicles in developing countries will increase by 4 or 5-fold by 2050 (compared to current car use levels), and that the majority of these will be second-hand. There are currently no global or even regional agreements that rationalise and govern the flow of second-hand vehicles. Others say that new electric 2-wheelers may sell widely in developing countries as they are affordable.
Besides the fact that (internal combustion engine) cars that may no longer comply to local environmental standards are exported to developing countries (where such stringent legislation on vehicle emissions does not exist), there is also the fact that fuel efficiency levels of these vehicles become worse as they age (and in some developing countries, such as Uganda, the average age of a car imported is already 16.5 years and it will likely be driven for another 20 years. In addition, national vehicle inspection requirements vary widely depending on the country.
Also, increased road development in certain areas (to cope with increased amounts of vehicle traffic) may lead to increases in deforestation, illegal logging and wildlife consumption and trade.
- Export prohibitions: some proposed that the European Union could implement a rule that does not allow the most polluting cars to leave the EU. The European Union itself is of the opinion that it "should stop exporting its waste outside of the EU" and it will therefore "revisit the rules on waste shipments and illegal exports".
- Import prohibitions: include used vehicle bans, used vehicle import age limits, taxation and inspection tests as a precondition to vehicle registration
- Mandatory recycling: the European Commission is considering plans to introduce rules on mandatory recycled content in specific product groups, for instance for packaging, vehicles, construction materials and batteries. The EU announced a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020, and it mentioned that "the Commission will also propose to revise the rules on end-of-life vehicles with a view to promoting more circular business models.
- Scrappage programmes: governments can offer a premium to owners to have their fossil fuelled vehicles voluntarily scrapped, and to buy a cleaner vehicle from that money (if they so choose). For example, the city of Ghent offers a scrapping premium of 1000 euros for diesel vehicles and 750 euros for petrol vehicles; as of December 2019, the city had allocated 1.2 million euros for this purpose to the scrapping fund.
In Germany activists have coined the term Verkehrswende (mobility transition, analogous to "Energiewende", energy transition) for a project of not only changing the motive power of cars (from fossil fuels to renewable power sources) but the entire mobility system to one of walkability, complete streets, public transit, electrified railways and bicycle infrastructure.
- Fuel substitution: central lever to be deployed in decarbonizing transport
- Alternative fuel vehicle: many of which use an internal combustion engine
- Directive 2008/50/EC, a 2010 EU directive limiting NO2 emissions, which is the subject of many legal challenges across Europe
- Electric vehicle conversion: takes an internal combustion engine car off the road and converts it into an electric car, while reducing manufacturing emissions (as most car parts are reused) and costs vs manufacturing/buying a new one
- Electrofuel: a type of synthetic fuel made from electricity (e.g., made using wind, water or solar power), many of which can be burnt in internal combustion engines
- Environmental impact of aviation
- Flexible-fuel vehicle and dual-fuel vehicle: have an internal combustion engine and can run on multiple fuels, sometimes even combining renewable/bio fuels and fossil fuels
- Fuel cell vehicle: vehicles that generate electricity using oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen
- Hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicle: burns hydrogen in an internal combustion engine
- Regulation of ship pollution in the United States
- Smart mobility
- Short-haul flight ban
- Romare, M. & Dahllöf, L. The Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Lithium-Ion Batteries. 58 (2017). 'IVL' stands for Institutet för Vatten- och Luftvårdsforskning (Institute of Water and Air Navigation Research).
- ICE stands for internal combustion engine.
- The 80 mg/km limit is defined in Regulation (EC) No 692/2008, Table 2 of Annex XVII and Footnote 1 of Annex XI. The European Court of Justice ruled that the European Commission illegally circumvented this limit by introducing a 'temporary conformity factor of 2,1 (...) in order to allow manufacturers to gradually adapt to the RDE [Real Driving Emissions] rules' in Regulation (EU) 2016/646, Preamble 10 and Annex II '2.1.2 Temporary conformity factors'. This meant 2.1 times 80 mg/km = 168 mg/km.
- *Access for banned diesel vehicles is only possible by buying a one-day exemption for 36 euros, which the owner is allowed to do up to 12 times (a year?). Old diesel cars for transporting disabled people are exempt.
- *From 2020 on, vehicles are gradually prohibited from most to least polluting; banned vehicles can only get temporary access by buying Low Emission Zone (LEZ) day ticket, which the owner is allowed to do up to 8 times a year.
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- Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
- Used vehicle background overview, see page 19
- Used vehicle background overview
- Geneva meeting on used cars exporting pollution to developing countries
- Regulation for 2nd hand vehicles
- Rajper, Sarmad Zaman; Albrecht, Johan (2020). "Prospects of Electric Vehicles in the Developing Countries: A Literature Review". Sustainability. 12 (5): 1906. doi:10.3390/su12051906.
- Used vehicle background overview, see page 5
- European Green Deal Communication
- Used vehicle background overview, see page 23
- Commission's "Green Deal" could lead to ban on EU waste exports
- Circular Economy
- A new circular economy action plan
- Smart mobility and services