• Kyodo, Jiji, Bloomberg

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Japan is closer to a decision to ban sales of new gasoline-only cars in the mid-2030s, officials said Thursday, as part of efforts to reduce climate change-causing emissions.

The government aims to accelerate decarbonization in the automobile industry in a bid to realize Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s goal of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions effectively to zero by 2050, sources said.

The government plans to work harder to promote electric vehicles as well as hybrid vehicles, an area in which Japanese automakers have shown leadership.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will shortly hold a meeting with experts and representatives from automakers for discussions on a policy of reducing the use of gasoline vehicles and other issues related to the industry, the sources said, adding that the government will consider including the new target in a carbon neutrality action plan that it hopes to draw up by the end of this year.

Japan has worked out a target of increasing the share of eco-friendly automobiles, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, to between 50% and 70% by 2030. But the target is less ambitious than goals set by other countries.

A new vehicle market consisting of only hybrid and electric automobiles would be a significant shift, given they currently only make up about 29% of the country’s 5.2 million new motor vehicle registrations, according to the Automobile Manufacturers Association.

While Toyota Motor Corp. popularized hybrid vehicles with the Prius and the country’s automakers are among the world’s top producers in the segment, the domestic market for electrified vehicles has plateaued in recent years. Last year, both plug-in hybrid and EV registrations fell year-on-year, JAMA data show.

The government is closer to a decision to ban sales of new gasoline-only cars in Japan in the mid-2030s. | BLOOMBERG
The government is closer to a decision to ban sales of new gasoline-only cars in Japan in the mid-2030s. | BLOOMBERG

“If this is indeed a Japan-wide decision and it really happens, it will definitely provide a new demand stream for power and it will be good news for utilities,” said Daine Loh, a power and renewables analyst at Fitch Solutions. On balance however, it’s “unlikely to see electricity consumption rise in the mid-2030s given low real GDP growth rates and an aging population,” Loh said.

The government is working on a new growth strategy in a bid to tackle global warming while also spurring an economic recovery from the pandemic-caused downturn.

Japan’s initiative comes amid the global trend of reducing sales of gasoline-powered cars, notably in China, the world’s biggest vehicle market, and Europe.

China is set to phase out sales of conventional gasoline cars by 2035. The U.K. last month moved up its target to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars by five years to 2030, while France aims to achieve this by 2040.

Singapore also plans to phase out fossil-fuel powered cars by 2040.

In the United States, the state of California is set to phase out sales of new gasoline cars by 2035.

The Japanese government said Tuesday in its action plan for growth that it will boost investment in technologies to tackle climate change, including to promote zero- and low-emission vehicles and develop competitive automotive batteries.

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