If France’s Environment Minister has his way, the country could join a small but growing list of countries that plan to ban vehicles running on gasoline, diesel or other fossil fuels.
The proposal was announced late last week by Minister Nicolas Hulot and appeared timed to coincide with the G20 meeting in Germany where many European leaders, including new French President Emmanuel Macron, challenged U.S. President Donald Trump over his decision to walk away from the Paris Climate Accord.
Several countries have already laid out ambitious plans to eliminate fossil fuel-powered automobiles. Environment Minister Hulot said it won’t be easy for France, either.
“It’s a very difficult objective. But the solutions are there.”
And, as the world’s sixth-largest economy, and with one of the world’s largest automotive markets, the proposed ban on the internal combustion engine could have significant impact far beyond France’s borders.
Going Mainly Electric Within Six Years?
France has two major automakers based in Paris, both of which have made electrification key objectives. PSA Group — which owns the Peugeot and Citroen brands — plans to have 80 percent of its fleet electrified by 2023. Renault, along with its Japanese alliance partner Nissan, has produced more pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, than any other manufacturer over the past decade, including models such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe.
Sales of all battery-based vehicles dipped globally in 2016. In the U.S., for example, hybrids, plug-ins, and BEVs collectively accounted for barely 3 percent of the overall new vehicle market. But there have been signs of an upturn. Renault sold more of the battery-electric Zoe city cars during the first half of 2017 than it did all last year.
And the Renault-Nissan Alliance is expecting a major surge in demand for the Leaf with the remake due later this year. Like the recently launched Chevrolet Bolt EV and the upcoming Tesla Model 3, it will boost range to over 200 miles while keeping its price tag in the $30,000 range, the company has hinted.
In general, EV prices are expected to tumble sharply over the coming decade, even as range rapidly increases.
Europe, and France in particular, is already working to establish a network of public charging stations, making it easier to own and operate plug-based vehicles.
Read more: NBC News