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2017-07-06 20:15:04
France Plans to End Sales of Gas and Diesel Cars by 2040

France is joining a growing movement to force the extinction of vehicles that run on fossil fuels, saying on Thursday that it would aim to end the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040.

The target is less ambitious than ones set by countries like Norway and India. Still, coming from a major car-producing country, France’s declaration gave additional momentum to efforts to fight climate change and urban smog by promoting the use of electric cars.

The timing of the announcement was also significant, a day after the automaker Volvo said it would phase out the internal combustion engine, and during a visit to Europe by President Trump. The announcement by Nicolas Hulot, the French environment minister, was an expression of European leaders’ determination to pursue an environmental agenda despite Mr. Trump’s repudiation of the Paris agreement on climate change.

“It’s a very difficult objective,” Mr. Hulot said Thursday. “But the solutions are there.”

The plan to phase out gasoline and diesel cars is part of a broader effort by France to limit global warming, which Mr. Hulot outlined Thursday. The country will also stop issuing new oil and gas exploration permits this year, and stop using coal to produce electricity by 2022, he said.

Mr. Hulot’s statement was the latest sign that the century-long reign of the internal combustion engine may be slowly coming to an end.

On Wednesday, Volvo said that all of its new models beginning in 2019 would be either battery-powered cars or hybrids that combined electric motors with diesel or gasoline engines.

The company, based in Sweden, said it will not introduce any new designs powered solely by conventional internal combustion engines — a first for a major carmaker. Mr. Hulot referred to Volvo’s announcement during his remarks in Paris on Thursday.

There was no immediate reaction to the government’s statement from France’s two major carmakers, Renault and the PSA Group, which makes Peugeot and Citroën cars.

Renault began selling battery-powered cars in 2011, and was among the first major carmakers to do so.

While electric cars still only amount to a sliver of the market, sales have been growing fast. Renault sold 17,000 of its battery powered Zoe compact cars in the first six months of 2017, almost as many as in all of 2016.

France faced some criticism that its plan was not ambitious enough. Norway plans to sell only electric cars starting in 2025, and India plans to do so in 2030.

Since cars usually last about 15 years, France’s target means that gasoline and diesel cars would be on the road until 2055. That is too long to meet France’s own climate change goals, said Greg Archer, director of clean vehicles at Transport & Environment, an advocacy group in Brussels.

But Mr. Archer added that France’s move “is absolutely the right direction to be taking.”

Such an expression of government resolve can prompt companies to devote more resources to developing electric vehicles, and encourage investors to put money into clean transportation start-ups. France’s move could also put pressure on Germany and other European countries to promote electric vehicles.

Mr. Archer said, though, that it was essential for France to follow up with incentives and regulations that encouraged the use of electric cars. Mr. Hulot gave no specifics about how the government planned to meet its target.

The German government originally planned to put one million electric vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020, but has admitted it will fall far short of that goal. The government was slow to offer financial incentives and build public charging stations.

“It’s great to have a vision,” Mr. Archer said. “We have to now see the policies put in place to deliver on that vision.”