KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Leaders in the U.K. want to make it illegal to drive a car with a gasoline or diesel engine. Britain's environmental secretary says the country will ban the sale of new gas or diesel vehicles by 2040. The plan is to phase out all cars with internal combustion engines by 2050. And this has become a movement in Europe. France and Norway have announced similar plans with pressure growing in Germany to do the same. To talk about the prospect of an all-electric, gas-free Europe is NPR's Sonari Glinton, who joins us from the studios of Youth Radio in Oakland, Calif. Hello there.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Hey.
MCEVERS: So what's the reason for the ban on gasoline and diesel in the U.K.? Is it about more than climate change?
GLINTON: Well, yes, it is in a real way about air quality. Air quality has become a really important political issue in England. As a matter of fact, electric cars and clean air was a part of the election, and it was a part of the conservative platform during this year's election. Pollution in - is getting better. But here's the key thing - in many big U.K. cities, harmful pollutants such as particulate soot and nitrogen oxides, NOx - these are the key ingredients or some of the key ingredients of smogs - that - those levels have barely dropped at all. And no doubt, this is about climate change in the long term, but right now there is a political problem. And a controversial study shows that about 40,000 Brits die prematurely connected to pollution.
MCEVERS: So is part of this poor air quality these diesel cars that are on the roads in Europe?
GLINTON: Well, yeah. Diesel is much more efficient than gasoline, but it's also dirtier. And it's hard to take out the pollutants. And that's become evident in part because Volkswagen the car maker was found to be cheating on emissions tests. And diesel has been in the headlines because of this cheating. Every carmaker in Europe has sort of been on the blocks because of their dependence on diesel. And VW has tried to save itself by turning to electric cars, in this introducing about two dozen electric vehicles in the coming years.
MCEVERS: But people aren't really buying electric cars in large numbers in Europe or here in the U.S. I mean, is going all-electric in a few - in a few decades realistic?
GLINTON: Well, I'm here in the Bay, which has about the highest - which has the highest concentration of alternative fuel vehicles. Those are hybrids, electric cars, hydrogen cars and the like. And that's only about 1 in 10 cars here. You know, that is not a hundred percent. And it's an infrastructure problem - you've got to charge your car, so you need a place to charge it. But Tesla is making a huge bet on this. And it's happening - you know, later this week they're handing over cars. And whether consumers adopt these cars here matters less and less because if Europe, China and India go electric, then that's enough electric cars to be sold for one car company.
MCEVERS: NPR's Sonari Glinton. Thank you so much.
GLINTON: Always a pleasure.
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