Paris pledges to ban petrol cars by 2030, and diesel even sooner
THE city of Paris is to ban all petrol-powered vehicles by 2030 and prohibit diesel cars as soon as 2024, sending fresh shock waves through Europe’s stunned motor industry.
The extremely tight timetable pre-empts France’s drive to end sales of the internal combustion engine by 2040, and shows just how quickly the electric revolution is shaking up the old order. It underscores the mounting business risk facing those car producers still betting that petrol and diesel models are here to stay.
“It is a credible and sustainable trajectory,” said Christophe Najdovski, the Green deputy mayor of Paris. “We’re planning to press ahead with the end of fossil-based vehicles because quite simply we’re running out of time. The climate cannot wait.”
Mr Najdovski said a 12-year transition is ample time for the car industry to adjust. “We are trying to get ahead of the process. It is perfectly doable,” he said.
Behind the French push is a hard-headed calculation by president Emmanuel Macron that his country has a chance of seizing European leadership in a lucrative new industry, vaulting ahead of German producers caught off guard by the speed of change.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance is already the world
leader with sales of 460,000 electric vehicles, led by the Nissan Leaf – manufactured, as it happens, in Sunderland. “The vehicle of the future will be an electric, connected, autonomous car,” says Carlos Ghosn, the Alliance’s chief executive.
Ian Fletcher, an expert on the European car industry at IHS Markit, said one must read the legal fine-print of the Paris ban before judging the real implications. “I am always wary when people talk about electrification because it can mean so many things. But this is a significant step,” he said.
Mr Fletcher said the French government was systematically pursuing an industrial strategy in favour of electric vehicles: backing research; retraining workers; and helping to retool component suppliers. “The Germans have been late to the party. The French think they can establish leadership in the market. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is very well-placed,” he said.
Europe is racing to keep up with China, which is pushing a drastic plan of electrification and threatens to dominate the new technology.
China is already the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles, and its lead is growing. The target is to produce 7m electric and hybrid vehicles a year by 2015, capitalising on China’s edge in lithium battery output – an area neglected by the Europeans. As of 2019, each company selling cars in China must meet a zero-emission quota of 10pc, rising to 12pc in 2020. Those that cannot do so will face fines or have to buy “EV credits” from rivals – likely to be Chinese producers.
The industry ministry is drafting plans for a prohibition of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, an ominous development for OPEC oil producers counting on Asia to boost long-term crude demand. The Chinese know they cannot match the sophisticated combustion engines of Western carmakers in the near future, but they can outflank them by shifting to an electric drivetrain and shaping the market by regulatory fiat.
China’s strategic drive will become an increasing threat as the cost of electric vehicles falls to petrol parity by the early 2020s, eliminating the need for subsidy. The risk for the traditional carmakers is that China could do to them what it has already done to German solar companies: wipe them out.
The French are attempting to head off this danger. The country is already Europe’s biggest market for electric vehicles, thanks to subsidies of up to €6,000, or €10,000 where the switch replaces a diesel model that is over 10 years old. But German producers are scrambling to make up lost ground and will prove formidable competitors.