Several European Countries to Follow Norway’s Lead, Ban Fuel-Powered Cars

Following plans by the government of Norway to ban cars fueled by petrol or diesel by 2025, several other countries in Europe are formulating similar programs to phase out fuel-powered transportation. Moreover, sources close to the European Parliament say that once multiple member states pass such a ban as is expected later this year, the European Union will attempt to enforce these rules throughout its territory.

In Sweden, the office of Åsa Romson, minister for the environment and co-spokesperson for the Green Party, released a statement saying that a ban on the internal combustion engine is a necessary step to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. In Sweden, only about 3% of electricity production comes from fossil fuels, and plans made by the Persson cabinet in 2005, Making Sweden an Oil-Free Society, already call for a phaseout of the use of oil for heating. The Löfven cabinet has nowhere else to cut in its program to make Sweden a carbon-neutral society by 2050. The Social Democrats-Green minority government is expected to work with the more moderate parties in the opposition Alliance; the Centre Party has already endorsed the move, but the Liberals have yet to make a statement.

In France and Germany, the ban is expected to be far more contentious. Auto manufacturers in both countries have condemned the moves by their respective governments to ban the internal combustion engine, saying that it would make the economy less competitive. European automakers have lagged behind Japanese and American ones in both hybrid and all-electric car technology, as conventional European petrol and diesel cars already have high fuel economy. In response to so-called range anxiety, in which an electric car’s limited range may leave the driver stranded on the motorway, the Hollande administration is expected to pair the proposed phaseout with national investment into charging stations as well as additional investment into TGV lines, to make it easier to travel long distances in France without a car.

Demands by BMW and Volkswagen for Germany to commit to spending money on R&D for improved battery range and charging and battery swap stations on the highway network have run into budgetary problems. While Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to be interested in implementing a phaseout, in order to attract Green support into a possible future grand coalition and reduce EU dependence on oil imports from Russia, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has openly rejected any package that would raise the budget deficit, and the allied Christian Social Union has rejected the proposed ban on principle. Opposition from far-right populist parties, including the Alliance for Germany (AfD) and France’s National Front (FN), is likely to be significant, and sources close to Hollande and Merkel say that both have ruled out tax increases to pay for the program.

In France the calls for a phaseout of the internal combustion engine are especially loud in the Paris region, where high levels of particulate pollution from diesel vehicles led to recent restrictions on car use. The mayor of Paris, the Socialist Anne Hidalgo, previously proposed to ban diesel vehicles from the city entirely, and has endorsed the state’s plans to phase out fuel-powered vehicles, adding that given Paris’s pollution crisis, a local ban on diesel vehicles should be implemented immediately. The president of the regional council, Valérie Pécresse of the Republicans (LR), is said to support the phaseout as well, and to push LR behind the scenes not to oppose it. Conversely, opposition from FN is especially acute. The party leader, Marine le Pen, quipped that France would not need any additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if it had not taken in non-European immigrants since the 1960s, and noted that the immigrants are especially likely to settle in Paris, where the problems are the most acute.

Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are said to be considering a phaseout by 2030. Within Belgium, Saudi support of mosques preaching radical interpretations of Islam is said to have influenced the country’s liberal parties, the Francophone Reformist Movement (MR) and the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), to support a phaseout. However, the Flemish nationalist parties remain opposed, and the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) issued a statement saying that this solution may work within Brussels but is inappropriate for Flanders. In contrast, the Netherlands is expected to pass the phaseout without any political problems. In Switzerland, a referendum is planned for next year, and early polling suggests that it is supported by 55-60% of the population.

Governments outside Europe are said to be watching the development closely, especially in France and Germany, which are perceived as more reliable bellwethers of European opinion than Sweden. In Japan, home to the world’s top-selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf, political support for a phaseout appears high. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called climate change a “defining issue of our time,” and is working on a national infrastructure plan. Sources close to Abe say it will pair subsidies for so-called city cars, short-range electric vehicles, with investments into the country’s rail network outside major metropolitan areas, to make it easier for people living outside the biggest cities to travel on public transport.

In the US, both the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign refused to comment, saying that it is an internal European affair. However, sources close to the administration say that it is already planning to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s executive power to restrict the sale of new fuel-powered cars to emergency needs. The sources speculate that an executive order is planned for shortly after the presidential election this November, provided Clinton wins, in order to avoid creating backlash among key swing constituencies, including the automakers and the exurban lower middle class. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s response is unprintable.

28 comments

  1. bigk12603

    well.. there is ANOTHER fuel for cars and other vehicles … Hydrogen- and the Japanese are ahead on this the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity also there is CNG – I had seen a pic of a Citroen being refueled with CNG the Toyota and Honda are H2 fuel cell electric BUT there is work in this country for H2 ICE – using H2 to fuel a vehicle powered by a internal combustion engine – I had seen a pic of a Ford chassis mini bus with ICE fueled by Hydrogen – H2 is zero emission – only water vapor – and of course in this country we have a REAL electric car – a luxury car and now a lower priced mass market version – the Tesla – looks like a future export opportunity for the latter

    • Adirondacker12800

      Hydrogen made a little bit of sense in 1965, as soon as someone figured out cheap reliable fuel cells. It’s 2016. Hydrogen doesn’t make sense. Not in reasonable scenarios. It’s too inefficient.

    • grendelkhan

      Hydrogen indeed isn’t going to make sense. Here’s 2003 calling, pointing out that hydrogen–whether fuel-cell or HICE–is an opportunity for fossil fuel companies to inefficiently sell natural gas under a green rubric. And now that batteries are much cheaper than they were then, here’s a more recent analysis; it didn’t make much sense back then, and it certainly doesn’t make sense now.

      (Short summary: if you’re going to do on-site electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, you may as well use the electricity directly, because the losses in the hydrogen pipeline are staggering. The only way to make it make any economic sense is to use natural gas via steam reforming, which costs you a quarter to a third of the energy anyway, and you might as well just burn the natural gas in the car.)

      • Mike Geldart

        I think you may well be surprised when you have a look at ITM Power in the UK and what they are achieving with Hydrogen.

        It is not just producing for FCEVs they are using their product to balance the grid and store excess energy, streets ahead of anything else available. Been in use in Germany for two years with phenomenal success.

  2. michael.r.james

    Clearly the air pollution in Paris is caused by their encouragement and subsequent dependence on diesel-fueled vehicles. Diesel is responsible for the NOx air pollution so visible in the skies of all big cities but especially Paris, plus dangerous (cancerous) particulates. This has been a fiscal policy much more than anything else, as France has to import almost all its fuel, and is the same motivation behind its nuclear energy policy (which got a big boost from the 70s oil crises. Almost all Paris taxis (except the new hybrids) are diesel (may be even mandated?). The most obvious transitionary move would be to go to CNG which is cheaper to use for transport than diesel. The problem is that buses are long-lived (25 years) and this looks the wrong time to invest in such a conversion when the full-electric era may be around the corner.

    Further, there appear to be mixed messages on converting existing diesel engines to CNG. In Australia a large fraction of public bus fleets are run on CNG however I also note that this was not from conversion but entirely from new purchases over the last 15 years or so, partly natural growth and partly replacement. A significant fraction of the taxi fleet is also CNG and these are conversions (the downside is that the CNG tanks take up a lot of space in the boot and reduce their luggage carrying capacity (eg. they have trouble fitting in a collapsed wheelchair). I came across this news item (below) that suggests Paris has barely begun any transition:

    Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), the state-owned public transport operator responsible for most of the public transport in Paris and its surrounding Île-de-France region and the fifth largest provider of public transport services in the world, has bought 50 hybrid and 53 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. The volume of the order is around EUR 30 million (USD 38 million). The units are expected to be delivered in 2015. The units have particularly high seating and standing capacities of around 100 persons.

    My own quasi-scientific assessment is that it would be better to wait for fully-electric vehicles even if it means paying a premium to be an early adopter. I don’t think London’s recent new Routemaster double-deckers with “a new form of diesel-electric hybrid engine” is the way to go, as I suspect they will be the worst of both worlds (and they typically turned into the most expensive city buses ever, except perhaps for Iceland’s?). For this kind of vehicle, and perhaps city-based delivery & utility vehicles, it will be a more robust battery system like Zinc-Bromide flow battery technology which is making great strides and is essentially ready for prime-time (but not yet for smaller vehicles except perhaps taxis).

    Re Adirondacker’s comment about hydrogen: yes, too inefficient and still waiting for a practical solid-phase (or liquid) storage system (like borohydride etc). This won’t be for ICE engines (which nevertheless apparently can be converted to run on hydrogen!) but entirely new fuel-cells feeding electric motors, which due to cost, are unlikely to appear on private vehicles. But I believe Iceland converted their bus fleet to hydrogen in recent years. Which points to a factor not mentioned: some sort of case can be made for hydrogen when you have a “free” source of energy as in Iceland, or for that matter France’s considerable nuclear power excess capacity. That is, France is the only country that runs its nuclear reactors in “load following” mode because of the awkward diurnal demand curve and lack of flexible alternative energy supplies (ie. over-dependence on nuclear). Instead they could be run constantly at max capacity and any excess used for hydrogen generation. Again, my quasi-scientific opinion is that this will never happen because the “hydrogen economy” is just lagging the alternatives. But the concept may well apply to electric battery vehicles and especially with bus & taxi fleets etc that are easier to organise/mandate into such an energy storage system. And especially Zn-Br flow cells due to their extreme robustness to infinite charge-cycles and running down completely etc.

    Of course in times of technology transition, it is often a “courageous” move to adopt a particular one for a large scale solution. Iceland can because it really does have almost-free energy, and let’s face it, their entire population can fit into the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

  3. Adirondacker12800

    Hydrogen made sense when batteries were heavy, expensive and wore out fast. They aren’t anymore. It’s more efficient to run the car on batteries. And since there doesn’t seem to be any magic fuel cells that are cheap and durable on the horizon or a magic hydrogen storage system that’s cheap, cheaper to use batteries. .. it looked attractive in 1965. Not in 2016.

  4. Eric

    The Tesla Model 3 was just announced at a price of $35k. The average price of a new car/truck in the US is $33,560. So it is not so unrealistic to ban fossil fuel vehicles (or rather, to heavily tax them in some way.) It would have some impact, but not an economy-destroying impact. It wouldn’t be so different from the massive subsidies for solar power that Germany has had in recent years…

  5. Pingback: Several European Countries to Follow Norway’s Lead, Ban Fuel-Powered Cars – Electra Meccanica
  6. Nathanael

    I have to point out that this is easiest to pass in countries where more people can afford Teslas. 🙂

    • Adirondacker12800

      The Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt are affordable. In some states, the ones with high incentives, cheaper than comparable internal combustion engines. Battery prices drop some more and they will be competitive without incentives. The automotive press was projecting that to happen in 2025. Looks reasonable that it will be 2019 or 2020 models.

    • Kurt Lowder

      I agree, but remember the cost of electric cars will continually come down. also electric cars cost more up front but cost much less to fuel and to maintain.

  7. Maurice

    Another point – vehicle registration policies mandate against electric vehicles in North America.Here, people often have extended trips, while coommuting traffic involves that same 5-passenger vehicle traveling on congested roads in stop-and-go traffic. But if a family would like a more city-friendly commute vehicle also, then the price tag includes not only the extra cost but also registration fees and insurance for a second vehicle.

    Another point – here in Canada, the temperature frequently drops below zero – F or C. A benefit of internal combustion engines is free heat, whereas with an electric vehicle supplying heat is a serious drain on range. As for carbon-free, even with modern good insulation, a house need some serious heating, and much of Canada is single-family dwellings. The infrastructure is probably not ready for full-electric heating.

    • Alon Levy

      Scandinavia is pioneering passive solar heating for single-family houses, but most of it doesn’t get as cold as most of Canada. Toronto is a bit colder than Stockholm (which is already colder than all of Denmark and most of Sweden’s population).

    • Adirondacker12800

      The usual number cited for Quebec is that 80 percent of the households heat with electricity. It’s because plain old electric baseboards or something like them, are cheaper than anything else. Manitoba Hydro has incentives to install ground sourced heat pumps. Because they can sell the electricity to the U.S. at higher prices. Or had, I’m not gonna go look.

      Back of the envelope for my house is that we spend 10,000 on insulation or even better 20,000 on new siding with insulation in the walls and two inches of foam under the new siding, we need a 15kW array and 40kW hour battery to get us through all but the coldest nights. When the roof needs to be replaced 4 or 6 inches of foam under that. I won’t quite make it to Enerfit but I’ll come close. New windows would help, I’m holding out for the vacuum insulated glass to become available in the U.S. Insulation first because insulation doesn’t wear out.
      On really cold nights the peaking plants that are usually idle in the winter can come on line. The utility has megawatt size batteries scattered all around they can charge up two days before the cold snap and help with the peak. So can my car battery.
      …. design my ground sourced heat pump the right way, in the fall when there is so much PV and wind sloshing around we don’t know what to do with it, pump heat into the ground. It lowers my demand in February because the ground will be warmer…

    • Bronx Resident

      Most Americans drive 40-50 miles a day at most and live in suburbs. Electric vehicles already exceed what people require, most just think they need a whole lot more.

      • Lyssor

        Electric cars are really a joke. Nothing comapres to good old V8 muscle cars. Nothing. the feel, the sound, the pure awesomeness… no, electric cars are joke for soft eco concerned people. Not for real men.

  8. r

    Awesome. I can’t wait until we start laying off all those redundant government workers. Fuel taxes have been a crutch for governments world wide for far too long. Efficiencies in automating and reducing government will need to be accelerated to co-inside with the expected tax revenue drop.

  9. Lyssor

    And what about us, who are not interested in riding a ridiculous bike or overcrowded public transport? Car is the most effective way of transportation, it goes whenever I want to, wherever I want to and how I want to. Nobody can really think I am gonna drop my diesel powered 4X4 at home (or sell it) and cycle to work. I would look like a clown.

  10. Sandis

    You monsters why would you do that that is stupid because they will have to spend millions on bying new cars for people that own internal combustable engines and use fuel to power them

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  12. anti-environmentalist-against-greenie-citiots

    what a load of shit. people don’t realize that global warming is blown way out of proportion. do they think that everyone has the money to buy a new electric piece of shit? sick of the EU trying to coax everyone into their stupid shit they come up with. let them keep their shitty little greenie-utopia nanny state over there where it belongs instead of forcing it on people in the US

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  14. Pingback: » Europe’s Energy Transition Megatrends and Tipping Points, Part II: Rising Number of Carbon Emissions Reduction Policies and Regulations Navigant Research
  15. Pingback: Athens, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris to ban diesel engines by 2025 – International Development Journal

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