France will say au revoir to gas and diesel vehicles by 2040

July 7, 2017

Last summer, Paris banned older cars from its city center in an effort to reduce pollution. Now, France has gone several steps further, announcing plans to ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles in the country by the year 2040. 

The announcement came from France's Environmental Minister, Nicolas Hulot, who was appointed by newly elected president Emmanuel Macron. The ban on internal combustion vehicles serves a larger goal of making France carbon neutral by the year 2050. 

Hulot's plans haven't yet been finalized, but during his announcement, he noted that they came about after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord: "France has decided to become carbon neutral by 2050 following the US decision."

One of the key details of any such plan will naturally revolve around what happens to older gas and diesel vehicles when and if France's ban goes into effect. There's no word yet on how those cars will be treated, though Hulot did say that lower income families would receive some kind of assistance from the government to help them purchase newer, more efficient vehicles. 

Some European automakers seem well positioned to make the switch with France. Earlier this week, Volvo announced that all new models produced from 2019 onward will be electrified (though many will likely be hybrids and be equipped to run on gas or diesel in certain instances).

Hulot's move also suits PSA Group, which owns Peugeot, Citroen, and former GM brand Opel. By 2023, the automaker wants to offer hybrid and electric versions across 80 percent of its lineup.

Can it work elsewhere?

France's shift to electric vehicles won't be easy, but it will be easier than in some parts of the world. Hybrids and electrics make up about five percent of the French auto market, and that number is expected to climb dramatically as more affordably priced models roll into showrooms. 

And it's worth noting that France isn't alone in trying to shun gas and diesel vehicles. Other European nations like Norway and the Netherlands are considering bans of their own, and even Germany--home base for much of Europe's auto industry--has flirted with similar ideas. China is pushing toward electric vehicles, too, in the hopes of becoming a new hub for the global auto industry.

As for the U.S., a plan like Hulot's would be a much tougher sell. Not only is the current administration skeptical about humankind's role in climate change, but so are many Americans. A recent Pew survey showed that while 80 percent of the public believe that climate change is real, just 48 percent believe that human activity is responsible for it. 

For more on this story, visit our colleagues at Motor Authority.

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