Global Climate Action Summit, September 12, 2018, San Francisco

RECAP: Panel on Global Strategies to Phase Out Gas/Diesel Passenger Vehicles


In connection with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Coltura and the Sierra Club hosted a panel discussion on global strategies to phase out gasoline and diesel passenger vehicles. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune moderated the panel of representatives:

·       China: Yunshi Wang, director of the China Center for Energy and Transportation of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, and co-director of the China-US ZEV Policy Lab.

·       India: Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer for Mahindra Group, an Indian multinational conglomerate holding company with operations in over 100 countries around the globe.

·       The Netherlands: Mark Van Kerkhof, responsible for the development of the 2015 to 2020 EV strategy in the Netherlands, and chair of the National Fuel Divisions E-Mobility task force.

·       Germany: Andreas Klugescheid, head of the Steering Government, External Affairs and Sustainability Communications of BMW.


Coltura Co-Executive Director Janelle London opened the session by defining phaseout as “a requirement that starting with a certain model year, all new passenger vehicles sold have to be zero emissions vehicles, not gasoline vehicles.”

She explained why so many countries have announced phaseout plans:

Having an end date for new gas cars provide certainty to automakers and industry that there will be a guaranteed market for clean cars as of a certain date. Having this certainty makes it more attractive to invest in clean car technology and in infrastructure. It helps with public-private partnerships wanting to get in on this when there's that kind of certainty in that sunset date. [Phaseouts] also provide a clear end goal that the public can understand.

Mr Brune then started the discussion by asking panelists what is working best to help convince decision-makers and stakeholders to move forward aggressively and quickly to phase out gas cars.

In the Netherlands, Mr Van Kerhof explained, the “polder model”, whereby all stakeholders engage in informal roundtable discussions, has worked well. For instance, broad agreement was achieved by this method that all new buses sold starting 2025 will be zero emissions, and only zero emissions buses will be on the road by 2030. Talks with public and private taxi services started with a goal of going electric by 2030, but landed on 2025 as the date. And there’s consensus that no new gas passenger vehicles will be sold after 2030.

Mr Klugescheid agreed that it’s critical to bring all stakeholders into the conversation.

That’s how you actually get the market penetration. That's how you actually move the needle. Start to get all the people who have an interest the means to contribute in one room and give them the ability to actually move the needle, and then ultimately make sure that people understand what this electric vehicle thing is all about.

As an example, he pointed to BMW and other stakeholders’ support for and participation in California’s Plugin Electric Vehicle Collaborative. This entity (now known as Veloz), is addressing a key challenge in phasing out gas vehicles -- lack of public awareness of EVs – with a $4 m ad campaign.

Mr Ghosh pointed to pilots in India that are proving how charging infrastructure can make EVs a viable alternative to gasoline vehicles.  India started with pilots for chargers for the predictable car patterns of taxis and TNCs (Transport Network Companies) and commercial employee transport.

The taxi cab aggregator Ola launched a project with electric cabs, electric auto rickshaws, electric buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery swapping experiments.  It encouraged EVs with its app, and, explained Mr Ghosh,

The good news is that the electric vehicles are getting used more than the non-electric vehicles on the app. The drivers seem to be making a lot of money. The system is working itself out. So, during the experiment they are figuring out where can I put a charger, where can’t I put a charger, what are the denser routes.

The company is aiming to get one million electric vehicles on its platform by 2021 to boost the electric vehicle ecosystem in the country. 

Mr Ghosh noted another electric vehicle pilot by Lithium Urban Technologies, which provides corporate employee transport for phone bank workers, and the plan for IKEA to use 100% EVs.

Mr Wang explained that in China, the phase out of gas cars has been accelerated by friendly competition among the various ministries involved with electrifying transportation. The Ministry of Industry and Information, Ministry of Finance, and National Development Reform Commission each wanted to be the leader in promoting Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) mandate policy. Each said, “It’s my cake,” Mr Wang quipped.  Additionally, the Chinese ZEV Policy Lab has been an effective platform for exchanging information and best practices. In fact, the day of the panel discussion, California, China and the Netherlands signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding ZEV mandates in each country.

Mr Wang also pointed to China’s incentives programs as spurring the move away from gas cars. In Shanghai, there’s an auction for the shrinking number of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) license plates, with winning bids at around $15,000. EV license plates are free.  In Beijing, getting an ICE car can take years through the lottery system, but EVs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Mr Brune then posed a “hypothetical” that referred to the not-so-hypothetical audience:

Let's say you were talking to a room full of advocates, people who were part of large institutions, powerful organizations, representing collectively millions of members, award winning filmmakers, scientists, policymakers, advocates. Hypothetically, they wanted to go to work. They wanted to pour their passion and their resources to getting off of dirty fuels in the transportation sector. What would you have them do? 

Mr Ghosh advised the audience to put resources toward EV battery technology advances as critical to transitioning away from gasoline.

Mr Klugescheid said it was critical to “make sure that people understand what this electric vehicle thing is all about.” He advised that creating the “right environment” for electric vehicles to take over is key, by “telling the customer explicitly through communication above the line if you like, but also implicitly, through what is happening; growth of infrastructure, availability of incentives, making available commuter lanes and so on and so on.” He also recommended that advocates take advantage of the fact that “through electric mobility, you have the unique chance to actually integrate the energy system and the transportation system. And that is actually the golden spot.”

Mr Van Kerkhof  said, “you have to think about the long-term strategy and create a positive business case and a market model,” especially for EV charging. He pointed to the need for a plan that would eventually eliminate subsidies for public charging.

 Mr Wang noted that the principal areas of focus in China on phasing out gas cars have been ensuring a sufficient supply of raw materials for EV batteries; ensuring climate and local pollutant benefits; and ensuring that consumers who buy EVs actually use them. He advised continued focus on local examples to prove the feasibility of moving to ZEVs. He pointed to Shenzhen, where 100% of transit buses, 90% of taxis, and 50% of light trucks are electric.

When asked to respond to his own hypothetical, Mr. Brune stated,

We have seen that mandates for clean electricity have made markets. Mandates for energy storage have made markets. And public policies at the municipal and state and regional and federal level have accelerated the development of clean renewable energy pretty aggressively and progress has begotten more and more progress. 

So, our view is that across the whole transportation sector, there's a great opportunity to maneuver transit agencies to embrace 100% electric buses for example. We think that there's a strong case to be made both in terms of health impacts as well as economic savings. We think school buses is another opportunity at the municipal level and the state level to effect great change. What we are interested in exploring now is using congestion pricing plus mandates at the municipal level and state level to see how far we can go to protect public health, move to 100% clean vehicles, and then use that to make a market, which would make a lot more possible.

Mr Ghosh proffered that in India, “the public vehicle charging is mainly for taxis and things like that, which need chargers all over the place. So that's a place where the mandate can work because technology's available. Alternatives are there.”

 Mr Klugescheid noted that in Germany, “specifically with high power charging, that there is a potential to actually earn money with that… for the first time ever, also the car industry is getting into the whole topic of infrastructure.”

Panelists also pointed out that even traditional oil companies like Shell and British Petroleum are starting to accept that the energy transition is coming, and adding fueling stations at their own gas stations, and buying clean vehicle charging companies.

Next, Ethan Elkind of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment announced the release of a new report, “100% Zero: Solutions to Achieve Universal Zero Emission Vehicle Adoption,” summarizing the conclusions of a convening sponsored by Coltura to explore pathways to phasing out gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Then Ann Hancock, Buddy Burch and Jock Gilchrist announced the release of a report of the Center for Climate Protection: “Survey on Global Activities to Phase out ICE Vehicles,”

Coltura’s founder Matthew Metz closed with a rallying cry:

Today is about plotting the path to victory over gasoline and diesel.” “Each city, state and nation that phases out gasoline and diesel will make it easier for others to do so. The more electric cars are sold, the more their price will come down, the more electric cars will sell. The more countries that find solutions to the technical issues surrounding charging and power distribution, the easier it will be for other countries to do the same.” He concluded, channeling Churchill, “We don't have time to wait….Let's take up our task with buoyancy and hope. We will not fail. Let's go forward together with our united strength.”

Overall, attitudes were positive that, despite the challenges ahead, phasing out gas vehicles can and will take place.


Audience Ideas and Questions:

Time ran out for audience Q&A, and so audience members submitted the following ideas and questions in writing:

1.       Governments

  • Implement EV chargers into building codes

  • Create an ALEC-like policy organization to make it easier for cities and states to craft legislation

  • Phase out plans for gas/diesel should also include transition plans for workers whose jobs are dependent on supplying oil & gas. This can acclelerate the low carbon transition by making workers part of the transition, rather than being left behind. This requires workers’ organizations (unions as well as firms) to be part of developing transition plans.

  • I’m concerned about the used gasoline car market after the phaseout date is met.

2.       Automakers

  • How has BMW worked with dealers to convert them from EV skeptics to advocates?

  • Can the existing dealer network turn into EV dealers, or does it need to be dismantled and replaced?

  • Partner with the ZEV manufacturers to implement ICE buy-backs as an incentive to buy ZEVs and retire ICE vehicles.

3.       The Public

  • What policies as part of a phaseout, will help less fortunate people get into an EV?

  • What to do about personal pickup truck love affair?

  • How do we provide charging for people who live in apartments?

4.       Other: What is the #1 threat to gas/diesel vehicle phaseouts?


Special thanks to Rick Row and MidPen Media for recording the event, and to the following for their invaluable help:

  • Sierra Club: Michael Brune, Gina Coplon-Newfield, Kathryn Phillips, Katherine Garcia

  • Panelists: Yunshi Wang, Mark Van Kerkhof, Anirban Ghosh, Andreas Klugescheid

  • Center for Climate Protection: Ann Hancock, Buddy Burch, Jock Gilchrist

  • Stand.Earth: Mary Zeiser

  • The San Francisco Law Library