China has signaled its intention to join countries such as Norway, Netherlands, UK and France with plans to ban the manufacturing and sales of cars running on traditional fuel.
Attending an automobile forum over the weekend, Xin Guobin, China's vice-minister of industry and information technology disclosed that the country had started research on a timetable to phase out production and sales of fossil fuel cars.
While Xin gave no details on the timeframe, he said "the measures would surely bring profound changes to the sector's development."
The statement followed similar moves of several countries to end the era of gas-powered vehicles to cut emissions and reduce pollution.
In July, French Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot announced that France would end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of the country's plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.
The same month, the British government followed suit with a similar plan eyeing 2040 as a deadline to stop sales of new fossil fuel cars.
Norway and the Netherlands have already passed a law to cease the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars 15 years earlier, in 2025, just 7 years away.
Analysts say that while there is little doubt that new energy vehicles (NEVs) will eventually prevail, how long the switch takes remains to be seen and depends a lot on infrastructure and technology improvements as well as how fast automakers can adapt.
In China, the world's largest auto market, the government is a staunch supporter of NEVs, seeing them as a way to ease pressure on the environment.
A slew of measures, including tax exemptions, discounts for car purchases and an order for government organizations to buy more new energy cars is in place to encourage the use of NEVs.
Last year, China sold 507,000 NEVs, an increase of 53 percent year on year. Sales of pure electric vehicles surged 65.1 percent year on year to 409,000, accounting for 80 percent of new energy vehicle sales.
An earlier guideline by the State Council said China would build more than 12,000 new charging stations before 2020 to fulfill the demands of over 5 million NEVs.
Zhong Shi, an industry analyst, said that China might adopt a deadline earlier than 2040 as it would be easier for the country to make the change given its relatively short history of car use.
Meanwhile, proposing a date later than 2040 would mean China being left behind in the green drive, a scenario the government is seeking to avoid, Zhong said.
According to a road map compiled by the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, entrusted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the share of NEVs sales should reach more than 40 percent of total auto sales by 2030.
Qiu Kaijun, an industry observer, holds a different view, believing it will take much longer for China to make the switch, due to its massive market.
China may adopt a differentiated timetable, with big cities like Beijing and Shanghai achieving the goal as early as 2030, with less developed regions at a later time, he told CNR News.
In light of recent global development, it is only a matter of time for traditional fuel cars to fade into history, Qui said.
The most sensitive to market trends, leading industrial players have been quick to respond.
Carmaker Volvo said in July that all its models would have an electric motor starting in 2019. GM, Volkswagen, Ford, Daimler and many other automakers also have plans to beef up NEVs production.
China now leads the world in new energy vehicle (NEV) development. Chinese auto companies including BYD, BAIC and Geely ranks among the top brands worldwide in terms of electric car sales last year, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
International cooperation on NEV production is also gearing up.
China has pledged to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and raise the share of non-fossil energy use in total consumption to about 20 percent.