They choke our cities and cause massive environmental damage. The race to take fossil-fuel-powered vehicles off the roads is on, with Scotland becoming the latest to join.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032,” said Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in a statement.

Image: The Scottish National Party

She went on to say that detailed plans will be released over the coming months, which will include massively expanding the number of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic settings, as well as efforts to encourage people to buy electric or ultra low-emission vehicles.

There are also plans for an “Innovation Fund” that will encourage business and academia to develop solutions to Scotland’s particular challenges, such as the ability to charge vehicles in areas with a high proportion of tenements (high-rise buildings).

As well as helping the environment, the First Minister said the plans would boost the economy. It’s part of a wider package of measures by the Scottish government due to be announced in a Climate Change Bill.

An electric car is plugged into a charging point
Image: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The countries and cities setting the pace

Scotland’s target is eight years ahead of the rest of the UK. In July, the UK government unveiled plans to halt the production of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040.

France has also said it will ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Meanwhile, Norway, which has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world, wants to do it by 2025.

Other countries such as the Netherlands and Germany are looking at similar initiatives. India, which is facing an air pollution crisis, says it wants to sell only electric cars within the next 13 years.

But it’s cities that have been setting the pace. For instance, Oslo proposed making its center car-free by 2019 – six years before a country-wide ban goes into effect.

And the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have committed to stopping the use of diesel vehicles in order to improve air quality.

When Paris banned cars with even-numbered plates for a day in 2014, pollution dropped by up to 30%.

But critics say that the Scottish ban falls short. “Rather than tinkering with the transport system, we need to completely rethink how we travel,” says Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the UK’s Green Party.

Campaign groups also argue that banning the manufacture of these vehicles will cost the economy trillions.

But some carmakers are embracing electrification. Swedish car manufacturer Volvo announced in July that every model it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor.

It marked the end, said the company, “of cars that only have an internal combustion engine” and placed “electrification at the core of its future business”.

BMW has followed suit, saying that all brands and model series can be electrified, with a full-electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrain being offered in addition to the combustion engine option.

Meanwhile, sales of electric cars are booming. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electric vehicles will account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, not 35% as previously forecast, driven by plunging lithium-ion battery prices.

Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance