FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Ban the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by a deadline — 2040, 2030, even 2025. More and more governments are proposing just that.
But how seriously can such deadlines be taken?
The issue of how to phase out polluting traditional engines has been pushed to the forefront by scandals and crises. First Volkswagen’s admission to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests, and more recently a push by cities in Germany and elsewhere to ban diesels to make the air cleaner.
The political desire to switch to get rid of traditional engines, however, runs into a number hurdles in the real world. More recharging stations need to be set up globally, at a potentially high cost. And millions of jobs depend on the production of internal combustion engines, making the decision politically difficult in many places.
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“I think there’s a majority, especially in cities, who say ‘we need change,’” says Dieter Janacek, a member of Germany’s Green party who is campaigning for re-election in the national poll Sept. 24 on his party’s official call for an end to new gas and diesel sales by 2030.
He is running not just from anywhere but from Munich, home to auto giant BMW.
Yet he thinks the call to phase out traditional engines is a winner. Janacek, 41, says that many people are “skeptical of the internal combustion engine, because they have to live with the consequences and the emissions.” That’s particularly true of urbanites — more than half the residents of Munich’s innermost neighborhoods don’t even own a car. And it is in cities where the pollution issue is most pressing.
A lot would have to happen before such a big move happens, however.
There aren’t enough public fast-charging stations that can enable longer trips with all-electric cars. Janacek loves his electric Renault Zoe, which has enough range to make campaign trips and then get back home to recharge overnight. But for longer trips, he and his wife rely on her conventional Toyota Yaris, a common compromise arrangement among early adopters. Experts say electrics could start to beat gas and diesel on cost and convenience by the mid-2020s as battery range and infrastructure improve.
Janacek concedes that “yes, it’s very ambitious. On the other hand, there are countries like Norway that want to move ahead faster. I am convinced it will happen.”
And then there is…