If the Netherlands has its way, we now have an answer. There are moves within the country to ban all petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2025, meaning only new electric cars would thereafter be approved on Dutch roads – although existing fossil-fuel-based vehicles could continue puttering around until their engines give out.
While it's an extreme proposal, a majority of the lower house in the Dutch parliament supported the motion, meaning there's a chance it could be passed into law. Under the plan, all emissions-based cars would be outlawed, at least in terms of new sales. That means fuel-efficient hybrids would also be banned, although hydrogen fuel cell cars would be permitted.
It's an ambitious plan, and it's certainly not the first time the Netherlands has backed the environment with big ideas in terms of transport technology. The country is currently working on a 100 percent wind-powered railway system, and is even building solar technology into its roads.
The most remarkable thing about the proposed vehicle emissions ban is how short the time frame is – less than a decade – to turn the Netherlands' existing auto industry into a wholly electric marketplace. Admittedly, the nation appears to currently enjoy a much greater penetration of electric vehicles than most other countries.
According to Inside EVs, last year, the Netherlands saw over 43,000 new electric vehicles purchased, giving electric cars a very healthy 9.6 percent share of the market, with 449,347 vehicle registrations in total in 2015.
While that's still significantly behind the leader in electric vehicle uptake – Norway, sitting on an amazing 22.39 percent market share – it's still a long, long way ahead of countries like the US (0.66 percent), the UK (1.1 percent), and Canada (0.35 percent).
In a sense, that's not surprising. There's been an awful lot of attention on Tesla's Model 3 in recent weeks, and it's been widely billed as the first 'affordable' electric vehicle from Tesla. As long as electric cars are also necessarily considered luxury cars – like the rest of Tesla's lineup – they clearly won't be able to take over from cheaper, albeit gas-guzzling vehicles.
So the Netherlands' impressive proposal won't just mean getting other politicians on board – it will also require getting car makers to produce about 10 times as many electric vehicles as are currently sold to Dutch drivers. A pretty big change, and will a decade be long enough to achieve it?
Nobody knows for sure, and there's certainly dissent among the Dutch themselves. According to Janene Pieters at NL Times, the Minister of Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp from the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), has called the proposal overambitious and unrealistic, saying at most 15 percent of new cars in 2025 will be completely electric.
It remains to be seen whether the motion will pass into law, but at least the debate is taking place, and some voices are clearly behind setting an aggressive pace for the uptake of electric vehicles. After all, they'll have to replace gas-guzzlers at some point, right?