The world’s largest carmakers are lagging behind on the switch to electric vehicles with only two on the trajectory required to hit the international target of limiting global heating to 1.5C, according to an analysis.
Tesla and Mercedes-Benz are the only firms out of 12 big manufacturers who are on course to shift to zero-emissions vehicles at a rate in line with climate goals, according to the campaign group InfluenceMap.
Carmakers around the world are racing to introduce new cars with zero exhaust emissions of carbon, and almost every big brand plans to move to battery electric technology. However, at the same time manufacturers are trying to keep selling their highly profitable diesel and petrol cars.
The carmakers that plan the slowest adoption of zero-emissions technology are the three biggest Japanese producers – Toyota, Honda and Nissan – while other laggards included South Korea’s Hyundai and General Motors in the US. The analysis, based on forecasts to 2029 produced by the data company IHS Markit, included 12 of the world’s largest carmakers, although it did not include the largest Chinese manufacturers.
The shift to zero-emissions vehicles is seen as crucial for the world’s transition away from polluting fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency, a watchdog respected by industry and campaigners, has calculated that 57.5% of global car sales must be zero-emission vehicles by 2030 (equivalent to 52% by 2029) if global heating is to be limited to only 1.5C.
Should the world go beyond that target, agreed at the 2015 Paris climate conference, the scientific consensus is that increasing proportions of the globe will become unliveable.
Tesla, the electric carmaker led by Elon Musk, produces 100% zero-emission vehicles, while Germany’s Mercedes-Benz is on track to produce 56% battery cars by 2029.
By contrast, Toyota and Honda are on track to produce only 14% and 18% zero-emissions cars by 2029, according to IHS Markit, as they bet on extended fossil fuel sales.
Ben Youriev, a programme manager at InfluenceMap, said: “A rapid scale-up of battery electric vehicles is critical to meeting global climate change goals. Almost all automakers are failing to keep pace with the transition to zero emissions.”
There is still a chance that some of the carmakers could decide to accelerate their transitions to electric vehicles. Regulatory changes in several markets, including the UK and EU, and the rapidly falling cost of producing zero-emissions vehicles will give manufacturers a greater incentive to shift away from petrol and diesel.
The US carmaker Ford, which last year said it would go all-electric in Europe by 2030, on Tuesday called for petrol and diesel car sales to be banned in the EU by 2035, in a joint letter with Sweden’s Volvo and other leading companies including Tesco, Uber and Unilever.
A VW spokesperson said the company agrees “100% that the rapid shift to e-mobility is essential to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees”, and said it plans an overall share of battery electric vehicles of “around 50%” by 2030. BMW said it plans at least half of all sales being all-electric by 2030. Stellantis said 100% of its car and van sales in Europe and 50% of its car and light truck sales in the US will be battery-powered by 2030.
A Nissan spokesman said the company had committed to aligning with a 1.5C scenario and that its science-based targets for below 2C alignment had been validated independently.
A Honda spokesman said it “will continue to accelerate towards both electrification and carbon neutrality goals”.
It said it had committed to sell 2m electric cars annually by 2030, which based on current sales volume would equate to an overall share of battery electric vehicles of approaching 50%.
The other carmakers below the 1.5C threshold were also approached for comment.