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Earlier this week, Volkswagen announced a plan to get out of the business of fossil fuel cars and to go 100% electric. They’ll launch their final generation of fossil fuel cars in 2026 and plan to stop selling them all together by 2040.
VW is the first major car manufacturer to announce an end to the internal combustion engine (petrol and diesel engines). They also happen to be the biggest car makers in the world (VW Group includes VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche). So this is a big deal – both for our air and the climate.
What does it mean for air pollution?
The pollution from diesel cars is one of the biggest contributors to dangerous air pollution in Europe and major cities across the world. Only last year, the then CEO of VW, Matthias Mueller, was insisting that diesel still had a “great future”. So it’s a massive change for the car giant to now admit that the end of diesel and petrol is near.
But near is very relative for VW. It might well be another 22 years until VW stops selling diesel and petrol cars. VW’s announcement doesn’t mean there’ll be fewer diesel cars on our roads tomorrow so it’s not going to have a direct impact on the quality of our air for some time. There’s still much more work to do to clean up our air – and Greenpeace will be there every step of the way pushing for that to happen (as we have been for the past 3 years).
What does it mean for the climate?
World wide, transport is one of the sectors where climate-wrecking CO2 emissions are going up rather than going down. If we want to stay under 1.5C global warming – as agreed by world leaders in Paris three years ago – we need to urgently reduce emissions from cars and to phase out fossil fuel-powered cars all together by 2028.
The world’s biggest car maker announcing an end to the internal combustion engine is a big step in the right direction. But the date by which VW plans to do this – 2040 – is too late as it will take us past 1.5C warming.
So though this is the clearest sign yet that the age of oil is ending, we need VW to move much faster on their transition away from petrol and diesel and for other car companies to follow suit.
To end the air pollution crisis and help avoid the worst effects of climate change, the entire car industry will need to stop producing fossil fuel cars much sooner than the current timeline. Globally we’ll be campaigning to push other car companies to announce the phase out of petrol and diesel cars and for VW to speed up their transition to electric vehicles and other mobility services. We hope you’ll be there with us.