Japan may ban sales of new gasoline-engine cars by the mid-2030s in favour of hybrid or electric vehicles, public broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday, aligning it with other countries and regions that are imposing curbs on fossil fuel vehicles.
The move would follow Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's pledge in October for Japan to slash carbon emissions to zero on a net basis by 2050 and make the country the second G7 nation to set a deadline for phasing out gasoline vehicles in a little over two weeks.
Japan's industry ministry will map out a plan by the year-end, chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told a news conference on Thursday.
The likelihood of state interventions to lower carbon emissions is fuelling a technological race among carmakers to build electric cars and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles that will lure drivers as they switch from gasoline models, particularly in the world's two biggest auto markets, China and the US.
Measures already in place in Japan mean Japanese automakers, particularly big ones such as Toyota Motor Corp with greater research and development resources, could use electric vehicle technology they have already developed at home.
Nissan Motor Co chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta last month told Reuters his company was ready to respond to Britain's decision to hasten a phase-out date for new petrol and diesel powered cars and vans by five years to 2030 because it was part of a global trend.
Japan's industry ministry is considering requiring all new vehicles to be electric, including hybrid vehicles, NHK reported earlier, adding the ministry would finalise a formal target following expert-panel debates as early as the year-end.
Japanese automakers for now are keeping quiet on what impact those measures could have on their businesses.
Toyota, Honda Motor Co, Nissan and its alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp declined to comment.
In Japan, the share of electricity vehicles is expected to increase to 55% in 2030, Boston Consulting Group said in a report on prospects for battery-powered cars.
Globally, "the speed of expansion of the share of electric vehicles will accelerate due to the fact that battery prices are falling more rapidly than previously expected," Boston Consulting said in the report.
Japan, China and South Korea recently announced firm targets to end net emissions of carbon, which has given momentum for companies and banks to push for cutbacks to keep global warming in check.
Apart from Britain, parts of the United States and Canada, Norway and Germany, are or plan to imposed curbs on fossil fuel cars. The wider European Union is expected to decide on future restrictions as early as this month.