Sell Last Fossil Fuel Cars By 2035 Or Else, Report Says


We hear a lot about the coming transition from fossil fuel to electric power. Ten years ago, electric cars were glorified golf carts — great for running to the market for a quart of milk but not good for much else. Then came the Tesla Roadster, followed by the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, and BMW i3. Suddenly, the end of fossil fuel cars was in sight and all the world’s manufacturers were racing to add electric cars to their fleets.

Chevy Bolt uses no fossil fuel

The purpose of all this, in theory, is to help limit carbon dioxide emissions so the average temperature of the world doesn’t increase more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. That’s the point at which scientists say dramatic changes to the world’s climate will begin, endangering the lives of millions. Keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C would be even better. That’s the goal of the agreement entered into by all the world’s nations at the Paris climate summit last December.

But when, exactly, do we need to complete the transition to fossil fuel free transportation to keep the climate from careening off the rails? A new study by the Climate Action Tracker — a statistical model supported by three European research groups — sets the date exactly. It says 2035 is the date when the last fossil fuel powered cars can be sold if we are to steer the world away from climate disaster.

“We calculate that the last gasoline/diesel car will have to be sold by roughly 2035,” the CAT report said. It assumes the last fossil-fuel vehicles would be on the roads until 2050. The Climate Action Tracker is one of the main groups that monitors government efforts to restrict global warming and includes researchers who have been contributing authors on UN climate reports.

“It’s striking that it’s so early. It means a huge change in the whole automobile industry,” says Niklas Hahne, of the NewClimate Institute. The other think tanks behind the report are Ecofys and Climate Analytics. The phase out is earlier than anticipated by most car makers. For instance, Toyota, has established a “zero carbon dioxide emissions challenge” which seeks to cut emissions from its vehicles by 90% from 2010 levels by the year 2050.

2035 is not far away. While it may seem easy to imagine only electric vehicles on the road by then, in fact many projections suggest that electrics will only comprise 5% of the world’s transportation fleet by 2030. That means there is a lot of work to do and a short time to do it. The CAT study says a greener transport sector would require a parallel shift to clean power generation in order not to be charging electric cars with power derived from  burning fossil fuels.

Political considerations will play an important role in the transition to electric cars and renewable energy. We will need to elect leaders who take the challenge seriously and will work to implement the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corportation

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Rick Danger

    That hockey stick adoption curve can’t come too soon.

  • Allan Barr

    Its already too late. We have zero carbon budget crossed and burned that bridge when we passed over 280 CO2.

    • Steve Hanley

      Many knowledgeble people would agree with you.

    • Radical Ignorant

      To late for? It’s not zero-one game. It’s how bad it will be. So any point is arbitrary. Let’s hope and do what we can to be little less late.

  • Antony Berretti

    As posted, we are already to late to stop the effects of a higher CO2 and Methane future, at best we can slow down the process. The rate of change to electric transportation must increase and we need to set a global date at some point in the next decade. My instinct would be by 2022 all buses electric only. By 2026 all personal transport options electric, hydrogen or fuel cell. 2030 all heavy commercial goods vehicles electric or alternative from diesel, ie bio.

  • VaeVictis

    Ethanol is not a fossil fuel and renewable CNG is produced from manure.
    Is electric power renewable? Is the lithium contained in batteries renewable? No, both are fossil.