The end of the road? An overview of combustion-engine car phase-out announcements across Europe

An increasing number of local and national governments are signaling their intention to phase out combustion engine-powered vehicles. Almost half a dozen countries in Europe have set combustion-engine passenger car phase-out targets and dates in national strategies, plans, and programs, or have drafted or adopted such laws to mitigate climate change. In addition to national commitments, almost 30 cities have made plans or have pledged to prohibit combustion-engine cars in urban centers or entire metropolises with the main aim of improving local air quality. Many locales are focusing on full bans for diesel vehicles at an earlier stage than gasoline-powered cars.

Combustion-engine vehicle phase-out targets have added more pressure on car manufacturers to adapt their product portfolios. National phase-out goals going into effect 10 to 20 years in the future, local access restrictions starting as soon as one year out, and stricter EU emission standards for cars and vans in place since 2020 are eliciting responses from the auto industry. Volkswagen Group, PSA Group, Renault Group, Hyundai Motor Group, BMW Group, Daimler, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group, Toyota Group, and Volvo Car Group have announced plans to increase the sales share or the number of electric-vehicle models or to steer their strategy away from combustion-engine vehicles over the next 10 years.

Helping to facilitate and accelerate these plans are national tax policies such as incentives for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles and significantly higher taxes for high-emitting vehicles, and local actions such as cities imposing urban vehicle access regulations. Such announcements are also important signals to the European Union to put in place a comprehensive phase-out strategy at the EU level via the coming revision of the EU car CO2 standards.

Figure 2. Select local government targets for combustion-engine car bans as of April 2020.