California is the latest jurisdiction in the world to commit to phasing out sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. An executive order published in late September directs that by 2035, all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in California must be zero-emission.
This followed June 2020 action from the California Air Resources Board, which passed the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation requiring manufacturers to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales from 2024 to 2035. With these latest commitments, California is part of a global trend.
As noted in previous studies (see here and here), a growing number of national, provincial, and state governments have set time frames for phasing out sales of new ICE cars or only allowing new sales to be electric.
Some have expanded the scope of their phase-outs to additional vehicle segments including vans, light commercial trucks, and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and some are aiming to phase out the use of ICE vehicles for certain uses. Since most targets focus on passenger cars, we use the map below to compare the target years of different jurisdictions.
There are still many blank spots on the global map. On the passenger car side, the 17 governments that have set ICE vehicle phase-out targets accounted only for about 13% of global new passenger car sales in 2019 (note that we use registration data to indicate sales in some jurisdictions).
The table at the end of this blog summarises the national, provincial, and state government targets for phasing out ICE vehicles, including additional vehicle segments such as vans, light commercial trucks, and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles; these are all targets set anywhere in the world as of early November 2020.
Our focus is on new sales, registrations, and imports rather than on stock targets, which apply to all vehicles on the road. Only targets mentioned in official policy or strategy documents are shown in the map and table; those announced by political representatives but not put in writing are excluded.
It is clear from the map and the table that European countries are leading. Norway and the Netherlands have committed to the most stringent timelines.
In less than 5 years, Norway wants all new passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, and urban buses sold to be zero-emission (buses will be allowed to use biogas). The country is also aiming for 75% of new long-distance coaches and 50% of new trucks sold to be zero-emission by 2030.
In the Netherlands, new buses entering service from 2025 onward need to be zero-emission, as do new passenger vehicles sold from 2030 onward. In addition, the country is committed to realizing zero-emission city logistics by 2025.
France has a target to end the sale of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles using fossil fuels by 2040, and Spain has a draft law that would only allow the sale of zero-emission vehicles from 2040.
In North America, California is the most ambitious in terms of timeline and vehicles affected. Following the aforementioned executive order, regulations are expected to be developed to turn the targets into actions.
The Canadian province of British Columbia is already one step ahead of that, and in July 2020, adopted binding regulation requiring automakers to gradually increase the sales share of new zero-emission passenger cars and light commercial vans to 10% by 2025, 30% by 2030, and 100% by 2040. The province also set compliance requirements.
At the national level, Canada has set the same gradual targets for the same vehicle segments, but has not yet adopted a legally binding regulation.
In Central and South America, Costa Rica and Colombia are the only countries that have ICE vehicle phase-out targets in official policy documents. In its National Decarbonization Plan, Costa Rica has proposed that 100% of sales of new light vehicles for the transport of people and goods shall be zero-emission by no later than 2050.
In Colombia, the Law for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles states that the purchase of electric or zero-emission vehicles in public transport fleets has to be increased from at least 10% in 2025 to 20% in 2027, 40% in 2029, 60% in 2031, 80% in 2033, and 100% in 2035; still, there are no sales targets for other vehicle segments.
China’s Hainan province has set Asia’s most ambitious targets to phase out sales of new diesel and gasoline passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, buses, and coaches by 2030.
There are earlier targets for certain user groups (e.g., government fleets, carsharing operators, and postal and logistics services, which have a 100% electric vehicle sales target set for 2020). Only for vehicles in private use, the province targets a progressive increase of electric vehicle sales from 10% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, 80% in 2025, and 100% in 2030.
The government of Israel also targets the year 2030 with a gradually increasing share of electric vehicles in new private vehicle sales, 5% in 2022, 23% in 2025, 61% in 2028, and 100% in 2030; note that this only covers part of the passenger vehicle segment.
The island state of Cape Verde, off the northwest coast of Africa, is the only African state committed to a time frame to phase out ICE vehicles. As stated in its national Electric Mobility Policy Charter, the country’s goal is to prohibit imports of ICE vehicles no later than 2035; this includes passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, buses, medium and heavy trucks, and two-wheelers.
The national, provincial, and state governments mentioned above have several things in common. They have all set a defined target and timeline, set their ambition levels to 100% ICE phase-out or new sales strictly electric or zero-emission vehicles, and have published their targets in official policy documents.
Beyond these efforts, a couple of initiatives have pledged to end the sale of new ICE vehicles. The 18 countries, states, and provinces that joined the International Zero Emission Vehicle Alliance (IZEVA) have agreed to make all new passenger vehicle sales zero-emission by 2050 the latest.
Additionally, and as outlined above, seven IZEVA members—British Columbia, California, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Quebec (Canada)—have officially committed to earlier 100% ICE passenger car phase-out targets.
On the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle side, 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding this past July pledging to make new sales of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles 100% zero-emission by 2050.
Additional countries, regions, and states have pledged to phase out sales of ICE vehicles, but so far without any official policy documents or legislation. For example, just days after California’s announcement, New York and New Jersey called for in-state sales of new passenger cars and light-duty trucks to be 100% zero-emission by 2035; unlike California, this was not part of an executive order.
In September, the Belgian government also suggested a ban on new ICE vehicle sales by 2026, but this targets company cars only. Others that have made phase-out announcements to end the sale of ICE vehicles include Egypt, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
Importantly, leading vehicle markets such as the United States, China, and Germany lack a binding, long-term commitment toward a full transition away from ICE vehicles.
In the United States, the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act that sets a zero-emission vehicle sales target by 2040 has not been passed. And in China, although the relevant regulatory agency started researching an ICE ban in 2017, there have been no official targets announced by the central government.
That said, China is already quite far along in terms of electrifying its bus fleet. Already the world’s largest electric vehicle market, China’s new bus sales were 96% electric in 2019, and that was without having announced any national targets on electric bus shares.
In the case of Germany, by becoming a member of IZEVA, the country has implicitly agreed to phase out combustion engine vehicles by 2050 at the latest; however, this commitment is not yet reflected in the national Climate Protection Plan. Nonetheless, California’s commitment has been a catalyst for new political discussions in Germany about setting an official national phase-out target.
We emphasize that the phase-out commitments apply to the sale of new vehicles and not vehicles already on the road. Also, only British Columbia has adopted binding regulation, and most of the ICE vehicle phase-out targets do not include plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Recent analysis found that PHEVs consume two-to-four times more fuel on average than is reflected in type-approval values.
Still, the recent announcements and commitments are an important signal. They seem to have brought new momentum to the discussions around ICE vehicle phase-out targets and making a full transition to zero-emission vehicles. Maybe these will bring a jolt to countries that have thus far been hesitant to commit to a defined phase-out target.
This article was originally published by the International Council on Clean Transportation. Reproduced here with permission