California is the cornerstone of the EV movement in the US and has led the way with legislation, tax incentives for early adopters and even helping Tesla set up shop and sell environmental credits to the competition it is trying to drive off the road.
The Golden State’s laws have forced automakers to introduce hybrids that they didn’t want to build and it has one of the most effective EV infrastructures in the civilized world. But California will not force the end of the Internal Combustion Engine. Europe is going to beat it to the punch.
Read: The best electric cars
The ZEV program was revolutionary
Now we don’t want to steal California’s thunder. The Zero Emission Vehicle program was an epic step towards and emissions free future and it was fantastic that an entire State took that kind of stand. Colorado has followed in its footsteps, but California set the standard.
By forcing automakers to produce quotas of low emissions vehicles, it helped introduce us to a raft of new hybrids and EVs that manufacturers clearly didn’t want to make. How do we know that? Because they’re not for sale in other states and they’re literally in California for compliance.
California also deserves a healthy round of applause for the additional $4,500 tax incentive for low income houses, on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit, and taking a tough stance on diesels long before they became a national issue thanks to VW.
The Golden State has become the benchmark on environmental issues in the US and that is a good thing that should make Californians proud.
Europe has joined the zero emissions party
Now, though, after pretty much ignoring EVs, Europe has woken up and the entire Continent seems determined to make up for the lack of previous action. When Holland voiced the idea of banning Internal Combustion Engine sales from 2025, it sounded like they’d been smoking too much of the weed that was legal there long before Colorado. But then Germany got involved and things got serious…
Germany is the home of the automotive industry. Karl Benz created the first petrol-powered automobile, the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motorcar. Now the country is home to Mercedes-Benz, VW, Audi, BMW, Porsche and some of the biggest Tier 1 suppliers to the global car industry.
It’s also a big market for the US manufacturers. GM sold 244,000 cars there in 2015 and Ford sold 280,000 in 2016. Jeep is a growing brand in Germany, too, and this new legislation will shape their future plans.
Germany is an unofficial leader of the EU
Thanks to its economic clout, Germany is also the unofficial leader of the EU. Nobody really says it, but they don’t have to. When Germany wants something, it normally happens and Europe will adopt this as a unilateral approach.
Now, the country that owes so much of its economic success to the automotive industry, which contributes 20% of German industrial revenue, wants to disrupt the whole thing and ban petrol and diesel sales from 2030.
It has already passed a resolution that will ban sales in Germany, but this is going to go further than that. It won’t drive a cart and horse through one of its biggest industries without the rest of Europe coming along for the ride. Germany will claim it is making a sacrifice for the greater good and it will expect co-operation.
Scandinavia is a shoo-in
The Scandinavian countries have encouraged EVs for a long time and Norway is now one of the biggest markets for Tesla, despite its comparatively small size. Sweden introduced tax incentives for eco-friendly cars a decade ago, when pretty much the only choice was a Prius. In 2009, the Swedish authorities gave eco cars a five-year exemption from vehicle tax. So, it’s fair to say that Scandinavia is on board with the concept.
Countries like Italy, Spain and Greece might object, but they are so heavily in debt to the European Union that they cannot afford to make waves.
So it’s going to go through. But it might take a while.
Will the EV switch cost jobs?
Germany’s car industry has already raised objections and they’re doing it the smart way. The automotive industry employs almost 775,000 workers and jobs will be lost. Germany is a heavily unionised country and there will be strikes and ongoing negotiations, but we don’t think that workers’ rights will turn back this tide.
While the car manufacturers could build a special car for California to get round the regulations, Europe is just too big a market. California is important, but it’s nothing compared to the combined buying power of the EU.
America will have to fall into line
It cannot adopt separate strategies for the EU and America, and in any case the peer pressure of a Europe-wide ban will force other nations in the Far East and indeed America to follow suit. An emissions free future is a noble cause and now Germany and Holland have suggested the idea, it’s almost impossible to roll back the clock and forget all about it.
There has been no mention of a ban on ICE car sales on US soil and when it does come up there will be some serious grandstanding by unions and the car companies that find themselves left behind.
There will be big losers in the EV war
We haven’t really felt the full effect of the electric revolution yet, Tesla will remain a niche product for the wealthy until the Model 3 hits the street and we still don’t know well the Chevy Bolt will stack up against the best that Ford has to offer.
The company that is on the losing side, and there will be at least one, is going to cling to petrol power if it possibly can. A Europe-wide ban, though, will set the wheels in motion. There will be nothing left to defend as it just won’t make economic sense to put any more R&D money into a dead fuel source. Once the manufacturers know for sure that the bridge is out, they’ll have to stop driving down that road.
So the mere passing of this legislation, rather than its enforcement, will set the wheels in motion for the end of the Internal Combustion Engine. And it will be Europe, rather than California, that brings an end to petrol power.