Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
The Volkswagen ID concept family. From left to right: The ID Buzz, ID, and ID Crozz.Volkswagen
  • In the US alone, tailpipe emissions account for almost 20% of all emissions.
  • Countries such as Britain, Canada, France, Iceland, and Sweden have all proposed some sort of emission-free vehicle legislation for the coming years.
  • Already, automakers such as Volkswagen, Geely, and Mercedes-Benz are offering electrified options for buyers.

The contribution of cars and trucks to climate change is undeniable.

A 2014 story by the Union of Concerned Scientists said personal cars and trucks accounted for nearly a fifth of all US emissions, and that almost 30% of "all US global warming emissions" came from the transportation sector, which includes cars, planes, trucks, trains, ships, and freight.

In the years since, international and US-statewide municipalities have put plans in place in the hopes to reduce emissions and curb reliance in fossil fuels. Along with more and more electrified and zero-emissions vehicles coming onto market, it might be the regulatory push consumers and manufacturers need.

Dating back

In the 1960s, climate change was hardly a blip on the public radar, let alone the knowledge that cars contributed to it. But large American automakers like Ford and General Motors apparently knew, according to an October investigation by energy and environment website E&E News.

The outlet reported that despite the knowledge that cars contributed to climate change, the automakers spent the next few decades on political lobbying that "undermined global attempts to reduce emissions while stalling US efforts to make vehicles cleaner."


"... both manufacturers largely failed to act on the knowledge that their products were heating the planet," E&E News wrote. "Instead of shifting their business models away from fossil fuels, the companies invested heavily in gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. At the same time, the two carmakers privately donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that cast doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming."

International affair

But now it's 2020 and we appear to be on the brink of a massive global overhaul of how we think about cars and their impact on the environment.

It's been widely reported that countries such as Britain, Canada, France, Iceland, and Sweden have all implemented some sort of ban on the sale of gasoline- or diesel-powered cars in the coming decades, with the ultimate goal of eventually achieving a zero-emissions future.

Recently, the UK said it'll ban the sale of new combustion-engine vehicles in 2030. It's a new deadline that's part of a 10-point "green industrial revolution" plan. By 2050, the nation hopes to be carbon-neutral.

There's no global consensus on how to tackle the change, or by when. But the roughly 20 nations listed below — some of them the biggest car markets in the world, plus California — have put forth some sort of plan to curb and end the sale of gasoline and diesel cars.


Below, you'll find a timeline of who is proposing what for when and how many cars were sold there last year.

And then there's the US

It's not quite as rosy here in the United States. Currently, there is no official proposed transition to a zero-emissions future at the federal level, though that could change under the Biden administration.

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
Volkswagen plans to launch a whole family of EVs.Volkswagen
At the state level, though, things are a little different. California made headlines recently when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that required the sale of all new passenger cars to be emissions-free by 2035.

The move isn't out of left field; California has historically been a stronghold for climate activism. In the US, 1963 saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, which — in addition to granting the Environmental Protection Agency the ability to standardize automotive air pollution — stopped states from implementing their own standards. Except for California.

Congress granted California an exemption from the state-standardization rule because California had already been tackling the pollution issues on its own, according to ABC10. California is thus allowed to set much stricter emission standards, meaning a car that passes emissions in Missouri might not pass in California.

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
The 2021 Polestar 2 is the first all-electric car from the all-new brand.Kristen Lee/Business Insider
Other states cannot set their own emission standards, but they can follow California's regulations, Green Technology points out. Currently, there are 12 states — plus the District of Columbia — that use the California standards, including Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts.

The Trump administration long fought moved to abolish California's right to set stricter emission regulations. Yet the California Air Resources Board teamed up with several big automakers such as Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, and BMW to "finalize binding agreements to cut vehicle emissions in the state," according to Reuters.


The agreements made financial sense, as Reuters noted that areas opting into California's standards represent about 40% of the US automotive market. Plus, making cars that fit multiple markets simply means making more cars, and spending more money to do so.

But not all automakers were behind California. A separate Reuters story noted that General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and "10 smaller automakers" backed the Trump administration. On November 23, however — after President-elect Joe Biden's victory — General Motors announced that it would stop siding with Trump's attempts to keep California from setting its own regulations.

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, is shown at the reveals of the new 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs at Little Caesars Arena on December 10, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan.Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The cars

Though EVs only accounted for less than 2% of new-car sales last year in the US, they'll likely gain more popularity through the combined forces of advancements in battery technology, more EV options, an increase in charging infrastructure, tax incentives, and government mandates.

Besides Tesla, Volkswagen has promised an entire family of EVs built on its new "MEB" electric platform. Chinese auto giant Geely has spun off an EV brand in the form of Polestar. Daimler, the parent company behind Mercedes-Benz, said it'll kick more than $11 billion to building its EQ-brand of EVs and aims to introduce at least 10 EVs by 2022.

You can read more about automaker promises here.

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is the automaker's first EV in the US that's built on its new MEB platform.Volkswagen

While 2030 and 2035 might seem far away, we didn't even have Tesla 20 years ago. A lot can happen in that span of time, especially with the EV landscape evolving as quickly as it is.

But a lot has to change, too. Especially here.

Last year, the best-selling vehicles in the US were a pickup truck, a pickup truck, and another pickup truck. SUVs have been outselling small cars for years. Automakers have been pouring money into beefing up their lineup with beefy cars — in addition to killing off the smaller ones — in order to juice profits and capitalize on cheap gas.

GM has said it will have 30 electric vehicles by 2025, with two-thirds of them being available in North America. The all-electric GMC Hummer pickup will be one. Ford will tackle the issue with electrified commercial vehicles.

Countries worldwide are passing laws to kill the gas-powered car — here's who's going all-electric, and when
2022 GMC Hummer EV.GMC


But with gas as cheap as it is and range anxiety still plaguing many drivers, there's also no real buyer incentive to make the EV switch right now. AAA found that at the very least, 40 million Americans said they'd "consider" an EV as their next car, according to CNBC.

Gene Liao, a Wayne State University professor who specializes in EVs and a former engineer at Ford, GM, and Toyota, told Business Insider automakers haven't been more prompt in launching EVs because they are still more expensive to build than internal-combustion engine cars. But it's getting better.

Sam Abuelsamid, a transportation analyst at the research firm Guidehouse Insights, told Business Insider the cost of batteries was about $600 per kWh just 10 years ago. Today, it's less than $200 per kWh.

It's on automakers to give us attractive, functional EV options that are priced affordably and don't feel like hobbled compliance cars. But it's also a matter of building out an expansive charging infrastructure.

"Traditionally, automakers have resisted investing in fueling infrastructure," Abuelsamid said. "What we're seeing happen is the automakers are actually working with the charging network providers."


All of this takes time. Internal-combustion engines have had nearly 100 years' head start on building out a network of gas stations, while EV charging infrastructure is barely getting going.

But with more aggressive mandates, perhaps we can jumpstart the change.