smart city

Will the Ban on the Sale of New Internal Combustion Cars from 2035 Accelerate the Development of Smart Cities?

As the world races towards a greener future, the impending ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine cars by 2035 is poised to be a game‑changer. This bold move aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). But beyond the environmental benefits, could this shift also be the catalyst for the rapid development of smart cities? By reducing reliance on fossil fuels and integrating advanced technologies, the ban on ICE cars might just pave the way for smarter, more sustainable urban living.

A regulation of the Council of the European Union of March 28, 2023 establishes a ban on the production of internal combustion cars in the Community. As of 2035, cars with gasoline and diesel engines will no longer be allowed to be introduced on the market. Considering the environmental implications, the arguments in favor of applying this approach are indisputable, even though it continues to provoke heated discussions among EU citizens and there is no shortage of opponents. So what will we gain by discontinuing the production of new combustion cars?

Objectives of the regulation

In the course of the recent European Parliament election campaigns, there have been some claims that the Union might withdraw from the project, as a result of a major difference of opinion among member states. Currently, however, the regulation is still in force, so it is worth taking a look at its goals and potential advantages.   The main intent of the regulation is to reduce CO₂ emitted by passenger cars, a necessary step in achieving the Union's climate goals. The EU plan calls for average emissions from new cars to decrease by 55% by 2030 and by 100% by 2035. Under the proposed regulations, cars sold are to be completely emission-free from 2035 onward.   As Jan Huitema, author of a report on the revision of EU CO₂ norms for new private and delivery cars, explains, the regulation applies only to newly manufactured cars–it will still be possible to drive internal combustion cars manufactured before 2035.  

The new regulations do not mean that all cars on the road will be CO₂-free by 2035. These regulations do not include existing cars. If we buy a new car now, we can drive it until the end of its operational term. But since the average lifespan of a car is 15 years, we need to start in 2035 so that by 2050 all cars will be CO₂-neutral¹.

Jan Huitema, Member of the European Parliament
  As a compromise, the EU has agreed to also allow the sale and registration of models with internal combustion engines after 2035, as long as these are powered exclusively by CO₂-neutral fuels or so-called e‑fuels. Biomass fuel or biofuels also contribute to the decarbonization of the automotive sector, and enabling their use helps maintain cost efficiency at the same time. Existing vehicles with internal combustion engines can use biofuels with minimal modifications. Moreover, the cost of buying and maintaining a synthetic fuel car can be lower than that of a hybrid or electric vehicle. Italy, in its position on the regulation during its first reading, stressed that:    The use of renewable fuels which are compatible with combustion engines will ensure an immediate reduction in emissions without requiring disproportionate economic sacrifices from citizens².  

Methods of implementation and possible difficulties

It has been constantly emphasized that the decarbonization of the road transport sector must take place in accordance with the principles of an economically sustainable and socially just transition. The success of electric cars will largely depend on how accessible they are to citizens. The affordability of hybrid, electric, or hydrogen cars is a key factor in determining whether the statistical citizen decides to purchase a new electric car or a used, but e‑fuel-powered, internal combustion vehicle.   Leading carmakers' efforts to ensure compliance with the norms' guidelines fall into three aspects:
1️⃣ increasing sales of zero-emission and hybrid vehicles
2️⃣ investing in technology that reduces CO₂ emissions of the currently produced vehicles
3️⃣ implementing a customer-encouraging approach to pricing and marketing strategies³.

Adequate charging and refueling infrastructure will also need to be provided, which can be a major challenge for authorities in both larger and smaller towns. The regulation stipulates that electric vehicle charging stations are to be located every 60 kilometers along major routes, while hydrogen refueling stations are to be located every 150 kilometers⁴. There are currently about 360,000 publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging points in the EU, but most of them are located in just a few countries–the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, and Italy⁵.   Another problematic issue is the disposal of electric vehicle batteries. Producing a new battery is currently cheaper than recycling a used battery. Electric vehicle batteries are not created with reusing in mind: they are difficult to take apart and contain toxic substances. Meanwhile, in the coming decades, recycling seems to be the only option so that landfills won't soon be covered with batteries. The hope lies in automating the process. In June 2023, the European Parliament introduced new regulations on the design, production, and management of all types of batteries sold in the Community⁶. Batteries are to be designed to be easily removed and replaced and are to be labeled with information about their carbon footprint. A minimum level of recovered raw materials that new batteries must contain has also been introduced. For cobalt, lead, and nickel these are respectively: 16%, 85%, and 6%.  


The main goal of banning the registration of new combustion cars is to ensure zero-emission in the road transport sector. Thus, the purpose of the regulation coincides with a key aspect of the smart city idea–respect for the environment. Changes introduced to slow down the process of environmental degradation should not be a hindrance to city residents, but, on the contrary, should be a facilitation of everyday life in cities. This aspect has also been taken into account in the regulation. The introduction of a ban on new ICE cars is to take place in parallel with the creation of incentives and facilities for the motorized. Infrastructure adapted to electric and hydrogen cars, cheaper synthetic fuels, and hubs for shared mobility–all of these are elements not only of the new regulation but also of the smart city.   A major advantage of the EU venture is the development of the aforementioned shared mobility. Mobility hubs, combining parking spaces and places where electric cars, scooters, or bicycles can be located for rent, is a smart city initiative, the implementation of which is significantly supported by the EU regulation. Including infrastructure elements such as electric chargers in the planning of these areas is another nod to sustainable mobility. If smart multi-story parking lots are built in dedicated spaces, mobility hubs will exhaust all the hallmarks of responsible and considerate development.

Transportation companies are another industry whose existence supports the development of the smart city. Nowadays, the very possibility of several people heading to the same location to use one vehicle brings numerous benefits. Sharing one car means money savings, less traffic, and lower emissions. The potential zero-emission of fleet vehicles means not only the almost complete elimination of the negative impact of transportation on the environment but also social benefits. From a forward-looking perspective, it is necessary to mention also an issue that arouses much controversy and heated discussions–autonomous mobility. While autonomous vehicles are undoubtedly a vast topic that deserves a separate discussion, one aspect of it is worth noting in this context. Namely, when talking about vehicles that operate without human control, it is usually assumed that they are as little harmful to the environment as possible. Thus, one talks about electric autonomous cars, and rarely about gasoline autonomous vehicles. This observation points to the natural way in which we associate the future with the abandonment of combustion vehicles.   It should be noted that the ban on the sale of internal combustion vehicles applies not only to private cars but also to heavy transport vehicles. Starting in the year 2035, newly manufactured city buses will have to be zero-emission. This fact, combined with greater attention to the efficiency of public transportation, may directly affect the interest of residents in this mode of transport.  
Also important from a smart city perspective seems to be the opportunity created by the widespread use of the aforementioned services. Commonly available electric means of transportation in many cases could determine a person's decision to abandon his or her own means of transportation. People who need a car on a daily basis mainly to commute to work could choose public or shared transportation instead. The most significant advantage of such a solution is that it reduces traffic, thereby reducing the frequency of blockages. Less frequent use of one's own vehicle in some cases could turn into a decision to give up owning one altogether. It could turn out that the cost of using other forms of transportation is incomparably lower than the cost of maintaining a private car. Thus, the introduction of zero-emission cars is not only a reduction in the amount of pollution they produce but also a reduction in the sheer number of vehicles traveling on crowded city streets. 
Switching to electric vehicles, powered by hydrogen or renewable fuels is also a step toward making the country less dependent on other countries' raw materials. Using substitute fuels means reducing imports of coal and natural gas, and thus–reducing the outflow of capital abroad⁷. The advantages of using alternative fuels are discussed by Katarzyna Wolny-Tomczyk, President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Producers of Fuels from Waste and Biomass:

In the first place, it provides us with energy security, because the use of alternative fuels does not reduce their resources and does not pose the risk of depletion. In addition, it enables energy independence, which is extremely important these days. After all, there is access to biomass and waste everywhere in Poland, which means no need to import fossil resources from other countries. The use of renewable energy sources can have a significant impact on electricity and heat prices (...). One of the biggest pluses of renewable energy is also the reduction of CO₂ emissions⁷.

Katarzyna Wolny-Tomczyk, President of the Board of the Association of Waste and Biomass Fuel Producers

Moving away from fossil fuels seems to be a key measure for environmental protection. It is slowing the progression of global warming, reducing air pollution, and limiting the occurrence of environmental disasters and resource depletion. Switching to green energy contributes to preventing climate change, protects human health, and helps slow down the process of environmental degradation. Banning the sale of internal combustion cars is not only a way to develop cities according to the smart city principle but above all a measure to reduce human impact on the environment.

Although the reality presented, full of advantages of phasing out the production of combustion cars, may seem idealized, the benefits described are not far from the truth. This also seems to be the nature of big changes–at first, they seem impossible to achieve, and when they become an everyday reality, one wonders what was actually difficult about them. To quote Nelson Mandela: it always seems impossible until it's done⁸.


The decision to ban internal combustion cars will undoubtedly accelerate the development of smart cities. The transition to zero-emission transportation goes in line with the multi-faceted goal of reducing CO₂ emissions and promoting sustainable development. City governments, in the spirit of smart cities, to increase mobility, reduce air pollution, and create more efficient transportation networks, can improve infrastructure and promote the use of shared transportation modes. By encouraging the use of zero-emission vehicles, the EU policy contributes to the vision of smarter, greener cities.


¹  Parlament Europejski & Rzecznik Prasowy: Jaume Duch Guillot. (2023). Unijny zakaz sprzedaży nowych samochodów spalinowych od 2035 r. – co to oznacza?
² Projekt rozporządzenia Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady zmieniającego rozporządzenie (UE) 2019/631 w odniesieniu do wzmocnienia norm emisji CO₂ dla nowych samochodów osobowych i dla nowych lekkich pojazdów użytkowych zgodnie z ambitniejszymi celami klimatycznymi Unii (pierwsze czytanie) – Przyjęcie aktu ustawodawczego = Oświadczenia. (2023).
³ Cele klimatyczne producentów samochodów – redukcja emisji CO₂. (2021). Magazyn Cartrack.
⁴ Ramey, J. (2021). EU Plans To Phase Out Internal Combustion Cars By 2035.‑out-internal-combustion-cars-by-2035/
⁵ Parlament Europejski. (2022). Alternatywne paliwa do samochodów: jak zwiększyć ich wykorzystanie?‑paliwa-do-samochodow-jak-zwiekszyc-ich-wykorzystanie
⁶ Parlament Europejski. (2022). Nowe przepisy UE dla bardziej ekologicznych i etycznych baterii.‑przepisy-ue‑dla-bardziej-ekologicznych-i-etycznych-baterii
⁷ Wolny-Tomczyk, K. (2022). Energetyczne paliwo zastępcze. Czyli jak zoptymalizować wykorzystywanie biomasy i frakcji kalorycznej odpadów? Nowa Energia.
⁸ Nicholls, K. (2001). Sailor’s course one of success – Birds an inspiration. Illawarra Mercury, p. 17.
ICE ban, EU resolution, electric cars, EV chargers, smart city
Joanna Nowak
Junior Content Writer
Junior Content Writer

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