Features
14 Mar 24

The road to net zero is clear, but the journey is not

Most European countries have agreed to ban the sale of new ICE vehicles from 2035. However, not everyone agrees, and not all governments have formalised legislation. Environmentalists want it sooner; some governments and automakers are digging their heels in. So, how is the phase-out looking across Europe?

Timeline for the phase-out of ICE vehicles

ICE Phase-out Date

Government

Policy

2025

Norway

National Transport Plan – all new passenger cars and LCVs sold in the country to be ZEV

2026

Belgium

Has proposed a ban on new ICE vehicle sales for company cars. Beyond that, Belgium is aligning with the EU on the 2035 ban

2030

Netherlands

Mission Zero – all new passenger vehicles to be ZEV, whether hydrogen or battery electric

 

Iceland

2020 Climate Action Plan – the registration of fossil-fuelled vehicles will not be permitted after 2030

 

Ireland

Climate Action Plan 2019 – introduced legislation to ban the sales of new fossil-fuelled cars after 2030

 

Slovenia

After 2025, Slovenia will limit high-polluting cars and LCVs and, after 2030, reduce this limit to 50 g/km

 

Sweden

Climate Policy Action Plan 2019 – Sweden has declared a commitment to support the EU’s ICE phase-out but with its own commitment to 2030 as the date.

2035

Denmark

Climate and Air Plan 2018 - banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, and from 2035, plug-in hybrid cars will no longer be sold

 

United Kingdom

The UK initially set an ambitious target of 2030, but that was lengthened in September 2023 by the then Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to 2035.

 

Portugal

Aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars

 

Germany

ZEV Commitment 2015/Climate Protection Plan – Germany initially supported the EU 2035 ban but, in 2023, asked for concessions to allow for e-fuels and was joined by Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. 

Germany is the most populated country in the EU and the bloc’s largest automotive manufacturer.

2040

France

Mobility Guidance Law 2019 – Ban the sale of new passenger cars and LCVs using fossil fuels by 2040.

 

Austria

Has planned to forbid the registration of new ICE cars after 2040

 

Spain

Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition 2021 – mandating a gradual reduction in emissions vehicles until a total ban in 2040

Source: ICCT (International Council on Clean Transport 2021)

In 2022, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania campaigned for the EU rules to be relaxed to a 90% cut in vehicle carbon dioxide in 2035 and a total ban to be pushed back to 2040. Automotive manufacturing is critical to Slovakia’s economy as it hosts four (soon to be five) plants, plus a sizeable supply industry. Over 260,000 people are employed in the automotive manufacturing industry in this central European country. 

The transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in Europe is a mosaic of ambitions and hesitations, reflecting diverse economic and environmental priorities. While some nations forge ahead with early phase-out dates, others seek compromise, balancing environmental goals with industry concerns. 

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Image: Shutterstock -71194807

Authored by: Alison Pittaway