SHANGHAI • China is gearing up to ban petrol and diesel cars, a move that would boost electric vehicles and shake up the auto industry in the world's biggest but pollution- plagued market.
The plan would follow decisions by France and Britain to outlaw the sale of such cars and vans from 2040 to clamp down on harmful emissions.
While Beijing did not give a date for the ban, the announcement drove up the shares of Chinese automakers, with domestic electric car leader BYD soaring by as much as 7.39 per cent.
Mr Xin Guobin, vice-minister of industry and information technology, told a weekend forum in the northern city of Tianjin that his ministry has started "relevant research" and is working on a timetable for China.
"These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China's auto industry development," Mr Xin said in remarks broadcast by CCTV state television.
"Enterprises should strive to improve the level of energy-saving for traditional cars, and vigorously develop new-energy vehicles according to assessment requirements," he said.
While Mr Xin did not give a deadline, the head of the National Passenger Car Association, a Chinese auto industry group, said it would be "a long process".
"It will be hard to stop producing traditional fuel-powered vehicles for the next decade or two decades," the association's secretary-general, Mr Cui Dongshu, said. "We may make significant headway in passenger cars in 2040 or even earlier, but for other products like heavy-duty trucks it would be difficult."
Automakers "have not really tried hard" and consumers are not so familiar with new-energy vehicles, Mr Cui said, though he predicted the "impact will be big" when China decides to ban petrol vehicles.
China produced and sold more than 28 million vehicles last year, according to the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers. The sale of new-energy vehicles topped 500,000 in the world's second largest economy in 2016, over 50 per cent more than the previous year, according to national industry figures.
As the measure looms, foreign automakers have announced plans to boost the production of electric cars in China. Volvo will introduce its first 100 per cent electric car in China in 2019, while Ford will market its first hybrid vehicle in early 2018. It envisages that 70 per cent of all Ford cars available in China will have electric options by 2025.
French carmaker Renault, which started producing cars in China last year, will roll out two new-energy vehicles in the country - a sedan and small SUV - in 2018 and 2019, said Ms Florence de Golfiem, its communications vice-president for China.