Europe Is Waging War On The Internal Combustion Engine


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Europe is waging a war on the internal combustion engine as part of the region’s broader crusade against man-made global warming.

France, Germany and the U.K. are leading a Europe-wide push to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered cars in the coming years and replace them with electric and hybrid vehicles. The recent anti-internal combustion engine craze has got automakers worried.

On Tuesday, the European Commission released initiatives to cut carbon dioxide emissions for new cars and trucks, mandating engines emit 30 percent less by 2030 than they will in 2021.

The Commission’s goal is to “curb transport emissions to fight the dangers of climate change,” according to a press release of the transportation plan meant to comply with the Paris accord and other climate goals.

And that’s just the latest episode in Europe’s crusade against gasoline-powered cars.

France and the U.K. plan to ban gas and diesel vehicles by 2040. Both countries say moving to zero-emissions vehicles, like electric cars, will improve air quality in cities and fight global warming.

The transportation sector accounts for about one-quarter of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions, and major cities, like London and Paris, have some of the worst air pollution problems in Europe.

The UK has been sued three times in recent years for allowing air pollution levels to breach legal limits. Activists filed suit against the government on Tuesday, building on two previous suits that will eventually result in more environmental regulations.

European leaders want to create system that incentivizes hybrid and electric vehicles. EU officials paired their emissions plan with a battery of legislative and regulatory proposals to promote alternatives to the internal combustion engine.

“Our targets are ambitious, cost-effective and enforceable,” Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union’s climate action commissioner said in a statement. “With the 2030 targets, we are giving stability and direction to keep up these investments.”

European cities have also moved forward with plans to get rid of gas and diesel cars.

Paris plans on banning gas-and-diesel-powered cars by 2030. Copenhagen will ban diisel vehicles in 2019, and the city of Oxford wants to only allow electric vehicles in its city center. German cities in the heart of Europe’s auto industry have also contemplated bans on diesel cars.

“It’s not a human right to pollute the air for others,” Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen said in October. “That’s why diesel cars must be phased out.”

For decades, Europe put in place policies that promoted diesel engines over traditional gasoline engines. But the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015 was the final straw, and European officials began aggressively pushing for policies to get rid of the very engine most residents had come to rely on for their livelihoods.

These bans are bad news for European automakers. BBC News reports German automakers lobbied the EU to water down its latest plan to cut transportation emissions.

German car manufacturers do produce electric vehicles and hybrids, but the bulk of their sales still revolve around gas and diesel vehicles.

Diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than gasoline-powered cars. EU regulators have even warned that banning diesel vehicles outright would hamper their ability to push more electric vehicles.

“While I am convinced that we should rapidly head for zero-emission vehicles in Europe, policymakers and industry cannot have an interest in a rapid collapse of the diesel market in Europe as a result of local driving bans,” Elzbieta Bienkowska, the EU’s industry commissioner, wrote in a letter to transportation ministers.

“It would only deprive the industry of necessary funds to invest in zero-emissions vehicles,” she wrote in July, according to Reuters.

Electric car sales were up 54 percent in June, but electric vehicles still only made up 1.5 percent of overall sales. Diesel vehicles still make up about half of new car sales in Europe, though its share has come down in recent years as more efficient gasoline cars hit the market.

BMW sold 161 percent more electric cars in June than the previous year, but that only amounted to 1,069 22xes sold. A major portion of those sales were in Norway, which offers generous incentives for electric cars.

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