China, the world's biggest auto market, is considering a ban on fossil fuel cars in a major boost to the production of electric vehicles as it seeks to ease pollution.
The move would follow similar plans announced by France and Britain to outlaw the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to clamp down on harmful emissions. Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology, told a forum in the northern city of Tianjin at the weekend that his ministry has started "relevant research" and is working on a timetable for China.
"These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China's auto industry development," Xin said in remarks broadcast by CCTV state television.
"Enterprises should strive to improve the level of energy saving for traditional cars, and vigorously develop new energy vehicles according to assessment requirements," he said.
China produced and sold more than 28 million vehicles last year, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers. The sale of new energy vehicles topped 500,000 in the world's second largest economy in 2016, over 50 percent more than the previous year, according to national industry figures.
The government introduced in June a draft regulation to compel automakers to produce more electrically-powered vehicles by 2020 through a complex quota system.
As the measure looms, foreign auto makers have announced plans to boost the production of electric cars in China.
Volvo will introduce its first 100-percent electric car in China in 2019, while Ford will market its first hybrid vehicle in early 2018 and envisions 70 percent of all Ford cars available in China will have electric options by 2025.
Xin said the policy would be implemented "in the near future", according to the official Xinhua news agency.