Germany Wants to Ban Fossil-Fuel-Powered Cars

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Germany, home of global automotive giants Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, is on the road to banning gas and diesel engines from its highways and byways.

The Bundesrat, the upper house of Germany’s parliament, passed a resolution on Monday that calls for the elimination of vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel engines by 2030.

The resolution is nonbinding and needs the approval of the European Union, as it would also apply to vehicles from other EU nations. But it marks a shift in thinking for a country whose automobile industry is one of the largest in the world and the driver of the German economy.

“If the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions is to be taken seriously, no new combustion engine cars should be allowed on roads after 2030,” Green Party lawmaker Oliver Krischer told news magazine Der Spiegel.

Germany has promised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 95 percent by 2050. Despite large subsidies available for electric car buyers in EU states, sales of zero-emission vehicles have been slow. About half of all vehicles on Europe’s roads are diesel fueled.

The resolution calls for EU automakers to “review the current practices of taxation” to stimulate emission-free mobility, as creating a tougher tax burden on manufacturers could encourage carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and BMW to push electric vehicles into production sooner.

All three automakers have at least one electric car model on the road. Mercedes-Benz’ parent company, Daimler, announced at the Paris Motor Show that it will launch more than 10 electric cars by 2025, and zero-emission vehicles will make up between 15 and 25 percent of Mercedes sales by then.

“The emission-free automobile is the future,” Daimler executive Dieter Zetsche said in Paris.

The United States’ target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Transportation is responsible for more than a quarter of all the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Electric vehicles can meet the needs of drivers today,” said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean vehicles and fuels project. “We need to deploy more infrastructure to make it easier to charge up, but the challenge is not with the capabilities of the vehicles.”

A recent study found that the electric cars available today have sufficient range for most people’s needs. A slew of new models, such as the Chevrolet Bolt, are set to go on the market at costs competitive with gasoline vehicles and featuring more than double the range of current electric vehicles.

If all U.S. drivers switched to electric cars today, emissions from transportation would drop 30 percent.

“To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we need to move our cars to predominantly zero emissions,” Tonachel said. “We can do it by driving on electricity produced by renewable power that never runs out from the sun and wind.”

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