Volkswagen to launch its last diesel and petrol cars in 2026

German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) will not launch any new car models with a traditional petrol or diesel combustion engine after 2026 as part of a shake-up to its electric vehicle (EV) strategy.

Speaking at a conference at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg late last week, the company’s head of brand strategy Michael Jost revealed that all new models launched after 2026 would be either hybrid-electric or fully-electric.

The company will build a platform for low-emission cars and begin re-training staff on issues surrounding electric cars before the 2026 deadline in order to support the transition, Jost explained.

“We’re gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum and engineers are working on the last platform for vehicles that aren’t CO2-neutral,” Jost said. 

“In the year 2026, the last product based on a combustion platform will be started.”

Jost added that the move will form a “radical” step in EV EV transition, helping it to play its part in minimising emissions from the transport sector. Transport is currently believed to be the UK’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, after emissions rose by 2% between 2015 and 2016, then a further 2% the following year.

Despite this announcement, green campaign groups and NGOs have been quick to criticise VW for failing to announce a date for when it will stop producing petrol and diesel vehicles altogether.

“Just over a year ago, the car giant’s leadership was talking up diesel’s ‘great future’ – now they say the end of the road for both diesel and petrol is just over the horizon,” Greenpeace campaigner Rosie Rogers said.

“But if Volkswagen is serious about doing its bit to tackle both our climate and air pollution emergencies, it needs to set a clear end-date before 2040 for its production of fossil fuel cars. We simply cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century to phase out the cars warming our climate and making our air toxic.”

Revving up EV efforts

The move from Volkswagen forms part of the company’s ongoing EV expansion, which will see the automaker produce an electric version of each of its vehicles by 2030.

It has already launched electrified versions of two of its most iconic models – the e-Golf and the ID microbus – and is reportedly developing plans to produce an “affordable” range of EVs, starting at €18,000 by 2021. 

The carmaker also took its first steps into the sharing economy for EVs this year, launching a car sharing initiative using a 500-strong e-Golf fleet in Berlin. VW recently partnered with car sharing firm Zipcar, which ordered 325 e-Golfs for its London-based fleet this summer. The first 100 vehicles were used for more than 20,000 trips around the capital within three months.

These moves are a far cry from the VW headlines which were dominating national news in 2015, when the company admitted to using emissions “cheating software” in the US and Europe – a scandal now widely known as “dieselgate”.

In the wake of the scandal, new emissions testing regulations – which claim to make such tests “impossible to cheat” – have been brought into force across Europe. The test uses a beam of light to analyse the exhaust plume of a car as it passes and automatic number plate recognition to link the measurement to a specific model. However, test results to date suggest that almost all diesel car models launched in Europe since 2015 remain highly polluting.

Sarah George 

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