Public ahead of politicians in supporting end date for polluting cars

Public support for an end to sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 is greater than previously thought, according to a new opinion poll commissioned by T&E. The poll shows perhaps surprisingly high levels of people in favour in central, southern and eastern Europe, and support is greater among those who have suffered from Covid-19. T&E says EU lawmakers should set a date for the last sales of combustion engine cars this summer.

Until 2015 there was no limit for greenhouse gas emissions from cars. Since then, CO2 emissions limits have become steadily stricter, to the point where the next step could require abandoning petrol and diesel entirely. The Commission is scheduled to review the EU’s current CO2 emissions limits in June, with a possible end date for sales of combustion engine vehicles on the agenda.

To test public opinion on the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles, T&E commissioned a representative pan-European online survey, involving 10,050 respondents across 15 large European cities in eight countries. The work was done by the leading pollster YouGov in March.

The main finding is that almost two-thirds of urban residents support banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in Europe after 2030. The poll shows 63% of city dwellers support only zero-emission cars being sold after 2030, while just 29% oppose a phase-out of petrol and diesel car sales by then. Support for an end date of 2030 was particularly high in central, southern and eastern Europe - in Warsaw, Krakow, Madrid, Rome and Budapest - areas which have traditionally been slower to embrace cleaner car technology.

Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility at T&E, said: “On this issue, the people are ahead of the politicians. Our poll suggests people are ready for a full transition to electric vehicles as soon as 2030. It’s clear that residents of cities are the most exposed to toxic levels of air pollution, and they don’t want internal combustion engines to be sold any longer than is necessary.”

One notable finding is that those who have suffered from Covid-19 – whether themselves or someone close to them - are more willing to accept a 2030 end to sales of fossil fuel cars. Of those affected by Covid, 66% back the measure, compared with 56% of those who don’t know anyone infected. Covid is a respiratory illness that hits the lungs, and several studies have pointed to possible links between air pollution – of which road transport is the primary cause – and higher mortality related to Covid.

Momentum towards an end date has increased following an open call from 27 companies for the EU to set a deadline no later than 2035 for the last new petrol or diesel car to be sold. The 27 companies cover a diverse range of industrial sectors, including car companies like Volvo, domestic retailers such as Ikea and Metro, media company Sky, energy companies Vattenfall, Iberdrola and Enel X, and battery tech firms including Vulcan.