Norway is considering a ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2025 with the four primary political parties debating the action, according to Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.
The new law has not officially been passed, but it has been put forward in a white paper, which calls for new private cars, buses and light commercial vehicles to be zero-emission after 2025.
Electric car sales account for around 24% of Norway's new car market, making it one of the leading countries for electric car sales, but it's also one of the world's largest oil exporters.
The Dutch Labour party PvdA is also pressing for a ban on petrol and diesel cars in the Netherlands from 2025.
European leaders have been talking about such a ban for many years - insiders have suggested Paris will be the first city to implement a zero-emissions-vehicle-only zone within its boundaries – but if they were to be introduced, the Norwegian and Dutch policies would be the first complete ban on combustion-engined vehicles.
The Dutch proposal arrived a year after it joined the International Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance, which aims to make all new vehicles use electric power by the year 2050. The country is already one of the fastest growing markets for alternatively fuelled cars, with nearly one in 10 cars bought last year using electric power.
The UK has seen similarly rapid levels of growth, although the overall number of sales for alternatively fuelled vehicles is comparably small.
There is an increasing contribution from hybrids and EVs to overall figures, though, which has taken place despite recent changes to UK government grant subsidies that mean cars that were previously eligible for grants of £5000 are now receiving as little as £2500 off their new list price.
London is also only four years away from enforcing a permanent Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), meaning all vehicles in the zone must meet strict emissions requirements. Nitrogen oxide and particulate matter from vehicles are expected to be halved as a result of the ULEZ.
With sales of alternatively fuelled cars on the up (Tesla’s new all-electric Model 3 received more than a quarter of a million orders in its first 72 hours on sale) and stricter enforcement of emissions limits, how long will it be until the combustion engine is either completely banned or priced out of the market?
To give us a better idea, we look at how other cities and countries are planning to tackle harmful pollution from cars.
London, England – Ultra Low Emissions Zone by 2020
For cars and small vans, all diesel engines must be Euro 6 compliant and up to five years old, and petrol engines must be Euro 4 compliant and registered on, or after, 1 January 2006. Vehicles that don’t meet these criteria must pay an additional cost to drive in the zone.
The zone will cover the Congestion Charge area, which has been in place since 2003 and requires cars to pay a fee to enter it between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, unless it’s a low-emissions vehicle.
Delhi, India – Odd-even number plate rule
In January 2016 a two-week car rationing trial was imposed on Delhi, meaning cars with even and odd number plates were only allowed on the road on alternate days. It was a response to alarmingly high pollution levels, but while the ban greatly improved the horrendous traffic in the city, there was little evidence to suggest it improved air quality.
Oslo, Norway – City-centre private car ban by 2019
As well as its latest move to ban petrol and diesel cars across the country, the Norwegian capital is planning to ban private cars from its centre by 2019. The move is part of Oslo’s new government’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, and reduce automobile traffic by 20% in 2019 and 30% in 2030. More bicycle lanes will be built and electric bicycle purchases will be subsidised by the government as part of the scheme.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands – Old diesel ban from January 2016
From January 2016, diesel cars built before 2001, and all cars pre-dating 1992, have been banned from the northern parts of the city within the ring road to improve air quality. Drivers face a €90 fine for driving a banned car in the area. It’s part of a strategy that will see €12 million invested to reduce the city’s pollution rate by 25%. Diesel cars built before 2005 could be banned by 2018, and more electric car charging stations will be built as part of the scheme, along with better bicycle facilities.
Mexico City, Mexico – No-drive days
The ‘Hoy No Circula’ programme – which translates literally from Spanish to “today it [your car] does not circulate” and is known as No-drive days – restricts certain cars from driving depending on the last digit on their number plate and emissions level. In place since 1989, the scheme bans cars from driving between 5am and 10pm one day per week, while cars registered more than eight years ago are additionally banned from driving on alternate Saturdays.
Electric or hybrid vehicles are exempt from the rule, as are other vehicles that meet certain emissions requirements. Emissions tests are carried out every six months as part of the scheme. However, a study has shown that carbon monoxide emissions have risen by 13% since then and some people have got around the scheme by buying a second car.
Beijing, China – Two-week ban in 2015
For two weeks in late August 2015, five million cars were forced to drive on alternate days in Beijing and factory restrictions were implemented running up to China’s Victory Day Parade on 3 September.
On the day of the parade, many praised the rare sight of blue skies, and the city’s air quality index went down to a “very healthy” 17 out of 500, but shot up to an “unhealthy” 160 the day after when bans were lifted. During the two weeks of the restrictions, 40,000 construction sites were shut down and Beijing’s average levels of particulate matter were 73.2% lower than during the same time in 2014. There is no news on whether a similar ban could materialise in the future.
Sam Sheehan and Doug Revolta