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[citation needed].

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.[1][2] Synonyms for the bans include phrases like "banning gas cars",[3] "banning petrol cars",[4] "the petrol and diesel car ban",[5] or simply "the diesel ban".[6] 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;[7] 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,[8] compared with a carbon tax or phase-out of fossil fuels.[9]

A BMW i3 being charged in Amsterdam (2016). Electric cars already have a market share of 3% in Europe[10]

The automotive industry is working to introduce electric vehicles to adapt to bans[2] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[13][14] 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.[15][16]


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.[17] At the date of implementation existing vehicles would remain legal to drive on public highways.[18]
  • 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.[19][20][21]
  • 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).[22]

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.[23]Fuel cell (electric) vehicles (FCVs or FCEVs) also allow running on (some) non-fossil fuels (i.e., hydrogen, ethanol,[24] methanol,[25] ...).

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.[17] These zones have been growing in number, size and strictness in the 2010s.[17] 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.[26][27][28]

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.[17]

Places with planned fossil-fuel vehicle bansEdit


Map of proposed bans.

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.[1]

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.[19]

In July 2021 European Union proposed a 100 % reduction of emissions for new sales of cars and vans as of 2030.[29][30]

Country Start year Status Scope Details
  Austria 2027[citation needed] government plan[31] Non-electric Newly registered taxis, car shares and hire cars[31]
  Belgium 2026[32] Diesel, petrol New company cars
  Canada 2035[note 2] climate plan[33][34] Emitting New light-duty vehicle sales
  China researching a timetable[35] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Costa Rica 2050[36][37] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Denmark 2030–2035[38] Diesel, petrol New vehicle sales (2030), all vehicle use (2035).[38]
  Egypt 2040[2] ICE[note 3] New vehicle sales[2]
  France 2040 climate plan[39] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Germany 2030 Bundesrat decision[40] Emitting New car sales[40]
  Iceland 2030 climate plan[41] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  India 2030 government target[42] Non-electric All vehicles[42]
  Ireland 2030 government bill,[43] Plan dropped from Climate Bill[44] Diesel, petrol New car sales[43]
  Israel 2030[20] Diesel, petrol New imported vehicles
  Netherlands 2030[45] coalition agreement[46] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Norway 2025 tax and usage incentives[47] Diesel, petrol All cars
  Singapore 2040 incentives on electric vehicles[48] Diesel, petrol All vehicles
  Slovenia 2030 emission limit of 50 g/km[49] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Spain 2040[2] ICE New vehicle sales[2]
  Sri Lanka 2040[50] Diesel, petrol All vehicles
  Sweden 2030 coalition agreement[51] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  Taiwan 2040[52] Diesel, petrol All bus use (2030), all motorcycle sales (2035), all car sales (2040)[52]
  Thailand 2035[53] Diesel, petrol New car sales
  United Kingdom 2030,[54]-2035[55] Non-electric New car sales from 2030, hybrid vehicles will continue to be allowed until 2035.

Cities and territoriesEdit

European emission standards
(older) 1992 1996 2000 2005 2009 2014
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.[56]

Some cities listed have signed the Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, committing to ban emitting vehicles by 2030,[57] 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.[58][59][60]

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.[61] 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.[62][63]

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.[64] 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[65] 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.[66] 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.[64] 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.[64] 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.[56]

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.[6] Indeed, the ruling triggered a wave of dozens of local diesel restrictions, brought about by Environmental Action Germany (DUH) suing city authorities and winning legal challenges across Germany.[67] 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.[68][69] 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.[70][71][note 4]

City or territory Country Ban announced Ban commences Scope Details
Aachen Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel Older diesel vehicles (2019), unless pollution reduces.[69]
Amsterdam Netherlands 2019 2030[74] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel cars (2020), non-electric buses (2022), pleasure crafts and (light) mopeds (2025), all vehicles (2030).[75]
Antwerp Belgium 2016 2017–2025[76] 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).[76]
Arnhem Netherlands 201?, 2018 2014–2019[77] Diesel Euro I–III diesel trucks (2014), all Euro I–III diesel vehicles (2019)*.[77][note 5]
Athens Greece 2016 2025[78] Diesel All vehicles
Auckland New Zealand 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Balearic Islands Spain 2018 2025−2035[79] Diesel, petrol All vehicles
Barcelona Spain 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Berlin Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel Euro I–V diesel vehicles (2019).[69]
Bonn Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel Older diesel vehicles (2019).[69]
Bristol United Kingdom 2019 2021[80] Diesel All private vehicles (city center from 7 am to 3 pm)
British Columbia Canada 2018 2025[81] Diesel, petrol All vehicles by 2040, 10% ZEVs by 2025
Brussels Region Belgium 2018 2030–2035[82][83] Diesel, petrol Euro 0–I diesels (2018), Euro II diesels and 0–1 petrols (2019), Euro III diesels (2020), Euro IV diesels (2022), Euro VI diesels and Euro 3 petrol (2025), all diesel vehicles (2030),[84] all petrol vehicles (2035).[83][85]
California United States 2020 2035 Net-emitting vehicles All passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks.[86][87]
Cape Town South Africa 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Cologne Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel Older diesel vehicles (2019).[69]
Copenhagen Denmark 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Darmstadt Germany 2018 2019[88] Diesel Euro I–V diesel vehicles on two streets (2019).[88]
Düsseldorf Germany 20?? 2014[89] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2014).[89]
Eindhoven Netherlands 2020 2030[90] 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).[90]
Essen Germany 2018[69] 20?? Diesel Older diesel vehicles.[69]
Frankfurt Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel Euro I–V diesel vehicles and Euro 1–2 petrol vehicles (2019).[69][91]
Gelsenkirchen Germany 2018[69] 20?? Diesel Older diesel vehicles.[69]
Ghent Belgium 2016[92] 2020–2028[93] Diesel, lpg, petrol Euro I–III diesel and 1 petrol/lpg (2020)*, Euro IV–V diesel and 2–3 petrol/lpg (2025–28)*.[93][note 6]
Hainan China 2018 2030[94] Diesel, petrol All vehicles
Hamburg Germany 2018[95] 2018[95] Diesel Euro I–V diesel vehicles in one street, older diesel trucks in another street (2020).[95]
Heidelberg Germany 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Lausanne Switzerland 2021 2030[96] Thermic vehicles Zero mobility-related direct emissions
Lombardy Italy 2018 2019–2020[97] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel and Euro 1 petrol (1 April 2019), Euro IV diesel (1 October 2020).[97]
London United Kingdom 2017 2020–2030[2][98] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025 (two zero emissions zones by 2022)[98]
Los Angeles United States 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Madrid Spain 2016 2025[78] Diesel Euro I–III diesel and Euro 1–2 petrol vehicles (2018),[75] all vehicles (2025).[78]
Massachusetts United States 2020 2035[99] Diesel, petrol Will set equivalent regulations to match California's Advanced Clean Cars Program
Mainz Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2019).[69][100]
Mexico City Mexico 2016 2025[78] Diesel All vehicles
Milan Italy 2017 2030[2] Diesel All diesel vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Moscow Russia 20??, 2019[101] 2013–20??[101] Non-electric Euro I–IV bus purchases (2013), all non-electric bus purchases (2021), Euro I–III vehicles (20??), all non-electric vehicles (20??).[101]
Munich Germany 20?? 2012[102] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2012).[102]
New York City United States 2020 2040[103] Non-electric vehicles All vehicles owned or operated by New York City
Nijmegen Netherlands 2018 2021[60] Diesel Euro I–III diesel cars (2021).[60]
Oslo Norway 2019 2030[17] Emitting City centre fossil-free (2024), entire city fossil-free (2030).[17]
Oxford United Kingdom 2017 2020−2035[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles (initially during daytime hours on six streets)[104][105]
Paris France 2016 2025[78] Diesel All vehicles
Quebec Canada 2020 2035 Diesel, petrol Ban of new gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035.[106]
Quito Ecuador 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Rome Italy 2018 2024[107] Diesel All vehicles, only from historical center
Rotterdam Netherlands 2015[108] 2016[108] Diesel Euro I–III diesel trucks (2016). Other bans were dropped in 2019.[108]
Seattle United States 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Stockholm Sweden 2017 2020-2022 Diesel, petrol Euro I–IV vehicles (2020), Euro V vehicles (2022) on one street[109]
Stuttgart Germany 2018 2019–2020[110][88] Diesel Euro I–IV diesel vehicles (2019),[110] Euro V diesel vehicles (2020).[88]
The Hague Netherlands 2019 2030[59] Diesel, petrol Two-stroke mopeds (2020), Euro I–III diesel vehicles (2021), all vehicles (2030).[59]
Utrecht Netherlands 2013,[111] 2020[58] 2030[58] Diesel, petrol Pre-2001 diesel vehicles from 2015,[111] pre-2004 diesels from 2021,[58] pre-2009 (Euro I–IV) diesels from 2025,[58] all vehicles from 2030.[58]
Vancouver Canada 2017 2030[2] Diesel, petrol All vehicles, electric buses by 2025
Wallonia Belgium 2018 2023–2030[112] 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).[112]
Wiesbaden Germany 2018 2019[69] Diesel, petrol Euro I–III diesel vehicles and Euro 0 petrol vehicles (2019).[69][100]

Manufacturers with planned fossil-fuel vehicle phase-out roadmapsEdit

In 2017, Volvo announced plans to phase out internal combustion-only vehicle production by 2019, after which all new cars manufactured by Volvo will either be fully electric or electric hybrids.[113] In 2020, the Volvo Group with other truck makers including DAF Trucks, Daimler AG, Ford, Iveco, MAN SE, and Scania AB pledged to end diesel truck sales by 2040.[114]

In 2018, Volkswagen Group's strategy chief said "the year 2026 will be the last product start on a combustion engine platform" for its core brand, Volkswagen.[115]

In 2021, General Motors announced plans to go fully electric by 2035.[116] In the same year, the CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, Thierry Bolloré also claimed it would "achieve zero tailpipe emissions by 2036" and that its Jaguar brand would be electric-only by 2025.[117] By March, Volvo Cars announced that by 2030 it "intends to only sell fully electric cars and phase out any car in its global portfolio with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids."[118] In April 2021, Honda announced that it will stop selling gas-powered vehicles by 2040.[119]

Unintended side-effectsEdit

Second-hand vehicle dumpingEdit

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.[120][121] According to UNECE, the global on-road vehicle fleet is to double by 2050 (from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion,[122] 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.[123][124] There are currently no global or even regional agreements that rationalise and govern the flow of second-hand vehicles.[123] Others say that new electric 2-wheelers may sell widely in developing countries as they are affordable.[125]

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).[123][126] 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.

Potential solutionsEdit

  • Export prohibitions: some proposed that the European Union could implement a rule that does not allow the most polluting cars to leave the EU.[120] 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".[127]
  • Import prohibitions: include used vehicle bans, used vehicle import age limits, taxation and inspection tests as a precondition to vehicle registration[128]
  • 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.[129] The EU announced a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020,[130] 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.[131]
  • Scrappage programs: 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.[92]

Mobility transitionEdit

In Germany, activists have coined the term Verkehrswende [de] (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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 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).
  2. ^ brought forward 5 years since 2017 announcement
  3. ^ ICE stands for internal combustion engine.
  4. ^ The 80 mg/km limit is defined in Regulation (EC) No 692/2008, Table 2 of Annex XVII and Footnote 1 of Annex XI.[71][72] 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.[71][73]
  5. ^ *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.[77]
  6. ^ *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.[93]


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