China is joining France and Britain in announcing plans to end sales of gasoline and diesel cars, with its industry ministry developing a timetable to end production and sales.
The ministry will also promote development of electric vehicle (EV) technology, reported CNBC.
Timeline for this move was not divulged, but Beijing is reportedly stepping up pressure on automakers to accelerate development of EVs.
China is the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold, giving any policy changes outsize importance for the global industry.
A deputy industry minister, Xin Guobin, said at an auto industry forum on Saturday his ministry has begun “research on formulating a timetable to stop production and sales of traditional energy vehicles,” according to the Xinhua News Agency and the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily.
France and Britain announced in July they will stop sales of gasoline and diesel automobiles by 2040 as part of efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
Communist leaders also want to curb China’s growing appetite for imported oil and see electric cars as a promising industry in which their country can take an early lead.
China passed the United States last year as the biggest electric car market, with sales of EVs and hybrids increasing 50% over 2015 to 336,000 vehicles, or 40% of global demand while sales in the US amounted to 159,620 vehicles.
Beijing has supported electric development with billions of dollars in research subsidies and incentives to buyers, but is switching to a quota system that will shift the financial burden to automakers.
Under the proposed quotas, EVs and hybrids would have to make up 8% of each automaker’s output next year, 10% in 2019 and 12% in 2020, and automakers that fail to meet their target could buy credits from competitors that have a surplus.
Beijing has ordered state-owned Chinese power companies to speed up installation of charging stations to increase the appeal of electrics.
Chinese automaker BYD Auto, a unit of battery maker BYD Ltd., is the world’s biggest electric vehicle maker by number of units sold.
It sells hybrid sedans and SUVs in China and markets all-electric taxis and buses in the United States, Europe and Latin America as well as in China.
Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely Holding Group, announced plans this year to make electric cars in China for global sale starting in 2019.
General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Nissan Motor Co. and others have announced they are launching or looking at joint ventures with Chinese partners to develop and manufacture electric vehicles in China.