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The road to a green world

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Politicians are racing to show the world how quickly their countries can go green.

India, France, Britain and Norway all want to completely ditch gas and diesel cars in favor of cleaner vehicles.

At least 10 other countries have set sales targets for electric cars.

With electric and hybrid vehicles accounting for just three per cent of global auto sales, according to IHS Markit, the goals are best viewed as political aspirations.

"It's really unclear. These are political statements. Until we get more details, it's really hard to understand what the implications really are," said LMC Automotive director, Al Bedwell.

Here's a look at the goals by country:

Britain: The U.K. said that it would ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040 as part of a bid to clean up the country's air.

By 2050, all cars on the road will need to have zero emissions.

"We can't carry on with diesel and petrol cars," U.K. environment secretary Michael Gove told the BBC. "There is no alternative to embracing new technology."

Related: Britain bans gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040

Nearly 2.7 million new cars were registered in the U.K. in 2016, making it the sixth biggest market for car sales in the world.

Stephanie Brinley, senior autos analyst at IHS Markit, said getting rid of gas-guzzling cars would be difficult. But if politicians are serious, manufacturers will have to respond.

"The big automakers are highly unlikely to just abandon the market," she said. "They'll find a way."

France: The government announced earlier this month that it wants to end sales of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 as it fights global warming.

After that date, automakers will only be allowed to sell cars that run on electricity or other cleaner power. Hybrid cars will also be permitted.

Nicolas Hulot, the government official in charge of France's "ecological transition," said the goal would help the nation's automakers "innovate and become market leaders."

The share of cars powered by electric, hybrid and alternative fuels in France is small, about 4 per cent, but growing fast. Sales of those vehicles were up 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.

India: New Delhi said earlier this year that every vehicle sold in the country should be powered by electricity by 2030.

"This is an aspirational target," said Anil Kumar Jain, a government energy adviser. "Ultimately the logic of markets will prevail."

India, which suffers from an especially acute air quality problem, is home to many of the world's most polluted cities.

Related: Delhi's fight for clean air

But it's also a country where policy can make a big difference.

The number of cars on the country's roads is expected to explode over the coming years as four-wheel vehicles become more affordable for the middle class.

If families purchasing a car for the first time are able to buy electric, the country could leapfrog ahead of some developed economies.

Norway: The government's transportation plan outlines a clear target: All new passenger cars and vans sold in 2025 should be zero-emission vehicles.

The country is considered a leader in this area. About 40 per cent of all cars sold in the country last year were electric or hybrid vehicles.

Related: Why India's transport chief is shunning driverless cars

The others: At least 10 other countries have electric car sales targets in place, according to the International Energy Agency.

Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea and Spain have set official targets for electric car sales. The United States doesn't have a federal policy, but at least eight states have set out goals.

China, which buys more cars than any other country, is also the largest electric car market. China accounts for more than 40 per cent of the electric cars sold in the world and more than double the number sold in the US, according to the IEA.

The IEA report contains an alarming statistic that shows just how far many other countries have to go:

Globally, 95 per cent of electric cars are sold in only 10 countries: China, the U.S., Japan, Canada, Norway, the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

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