On Tuesday, the fractured Dutch government announced a coalition of several leading parties and put forward a roadmap for the Netherlands’ future. Besides reaffirming the country’s support of the EU and offering tax and immigration plans, the coalition said that it wanted all new cars to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030. The coalition also called for more aggressive emissions goals in general—specifically, a 49-percent reduction in the country’s CO2 emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030, according to EU Observer.
The Netherlands is hardly the first country to float a fossil-fuel-burning vehicle ban. France has said it wants to ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040, and China and the UK have followed suit (although China has not yet articulated a timeline for its ban). California’s governor has also floated the idea of a zero-emissions mandate for cars sold in the state.
The Netherlands, like France, also called for the closure of all coal plants within the country by 2030 and for increased use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to help the country reach its 49-percent CO2 reductions goals.
But achieving those numbers may be more difficult for the Netherlands than for other EU nations. In a 2014 overview of the country’s energy mix, the International Energy Agency wrote that the Netherlands “remains one of the most fossil-fuel- and CO2-intensive economies among IEA member countries.” According to EU Observer, think tank CE Delft recently came to the conclusion it was “highly unlikely” that the Netherlands would be able to reach a 25-percent reduction in CO2 compared to 1990s levels by 2020. Germany, one of the European countries with the most aggressive emissions-reductions programs, reported earlier this year that while it was able to cut electricity-sector emissions dramatically, transportation- and heating-related emissions remained essentially unchanged.
That suggests that a ban on polluting vehicles could help a country like the Netherlands get at least within striking distance of its emissions reductions goals.
Still, there are skeptics that a zero-emissions mandate could work. This week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra pushed back on the idea that states alone could stop gas and diesel vehicle sales in the absence of consumer demand, according to The Detroit News. While Barra said GM is “very committed to an all-electric future,” she also added that “at the end of the day you still have to make customers happy and you have to fill their needs.” GM has been growing its share of the EV market with the Chevrolet Bolt and the Plug In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) Volt. Still, despite what looks to be a record year for electric vehicle (EV) sales according to Inside EVs, nearly 13 million new cars were sold in the first nine months of 2017, compared to 142,000 EVs.
However, the Netherlands is one of the leading countries as far as EV market share—a whopping 6.4-percent of its cars are electric. The country is also a poster child for how government tax incentives can spur growth. In 2016, incentives for PHEV cars were phased out, but incentives for all-electric vehicles remained unchanged. Consequently, PHEV sales in the Netherlands tanked 50 percent in 2016, but sales of EVs rose 47 percent.
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