Growing momentum: Global overview of government targets for phasing out sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles

California is the latest jurisdiction in the world to commit to phasing out sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles

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.

Map
Figure 1. National, provincial, and state governments with defined targets to fully phase out sales of new ICE cars.

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 summarizes 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. Other European countries that have pledged to end the sale or registration of new ICE passenger cars in less than 10 years include Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Slovenia, and Sweden. Scotland wants to end the sale of new ICE cars and vans by 2032, and the United Kingdom is likely to shift its current 2040 target to 2035, and might even move it further ahead to 2030. 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.

YearVehicle category*Target vehicle types* Policy document**
EUROPE
Norway2025Passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, urban usesNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionNational Transport Plan 2018–2029 (2017)
Netherlands2025Urban busesNew vehicle purchases 100% zero-emissionMission Zero (2019)
2030Passenger carsNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emission
Denmark2030Passenger carsNo new gasoline or diesel vehicle salesClimate and Air Plan (2018)
2035No new gasoline, diesel, or plug-in hybrid vehicle sales
Iceland2030Passenger carsNo new gasoline or diesel vehicle registrationsIceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018–2030 (2018)
Ireland2030Passenger carsNo sales of new fossil fuel vehiclesClimate Action Plan 2019 (2019)
Slovenia2030Passenger cars, light commercial vehiclesNo new registrations of vehicles with CO2 emissions above 50 g/kmMarket Development Strategy for the Establishment of Adequate Alternative Fuel Infrastructure in the Transport Sector in the Republic of Slovenia (2017)
Sweden2030Passenger carsNo sales of new gasoline or diesel vehiclesClimate Policy Action Plan (2019)
Scotland (United Kingdom)2032Passenger cars, light commercial vehiclesNo sales of new gasoline or diesel vehiclesClimate Change Plan (2018)
United Kingdom2035Passenger cars, light commercial vehiclesNo sales of new gasoline, diesel, or hybrid vehiclesConsulting on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars and vans (2020)
France2040Passenger cars, light commercial vehiclesNo sales of new fossil fuel vehiclesMobility Guidance Law (2019)
Spain2040Passenger cars, light commercial vehiclesNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionDraft Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition (2020)
Germany, Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany)2050Passenger carsNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionIZEVA commitment (2015), not yet reflected in national Climate Protection Plan
NORTH, CENTRAL, and SOUTH AMERICA
California (United States)2035Passenger vehicles, light-duty trucksNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionExecutive Order (2020)
Columbia2035Public transportNew purchases 100% electric or zero-emissionLaw for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles in Columbia (2019)
British Columbia (Canada)2040Light-duty vehicles (passenger cars, light commercial vehicles)New vehicle sales and leases 100% zero-emissionZero-Emission Vehicles Act (2020)
Canada2040Light-duty vehicles (passenger cars, light commercial vehicles)New vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionCanada’s Federal Budget (2019)
Costa Rica2050Light vehicles (passenger cars, light commercial vehicles)New vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionNational Decarbonization Plan (2019)
Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (United States)2050Passenger carsNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionIZEVA commitment (2015), not yet reflected in official state or provincial-level strategic documents
California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia (United States)2050Medium- and heavy-duty vehiclesNew vehicle sales 100% zero-emissionMemorandum of understanding (2020), not yet reflected in official strategic documents
ASIA
Hainan (China)2020Government and car-sharing vehicles, light-duty trucksNew vehicle sales 100% electricClean Energy Vehicle Development Plan (2019)
2020Buses, ride-hailing vehiclesNo sales of new gasoline or diesel vehicles
2025Coaches, rental carsNo sales of new gasoline or diesel vehicles
2030Private carsNew vehicle sales 100% electric
Israel2030Private vehiclesNew vehicle sales 100% electricEnergy Economy Objectives for the Year 2030 (2018)
AFRICA
Cape Verde2035Passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, buses, medium and heavy trucks, two-wheelersNo imports of internal combustion engine vehicles using fossil fuels (gasoline or diesel)Electric Mobility Policy Charter (2019)
*Terminologies used in official policy documents
**Publication date

Table 1. National, provincial, and state government targets for phasing out sales of new ICE vehicles or setting targets for 100% electric vehicle share of new sales, registrations, or imports up to 2050 (as of early November 2020).

SOURCE: ICCT