Electric cars will lead the way.

Sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered cars and vans will be banned in Britain by 2040, Environment Minister Michael Gove is expected to announce today.

The measure will be part of long-term measures to cut pollution and improve dangerously high levels of harmful pollutants in emissions hotspots. 

The government has been forced by a European court ruling to publish its plans to improve air quality in the U.K. following a challenge by an environmental charity.

The U.K. air quality plan will make electrification mandatory for all new models – and may even go as far as to outlaw the internal combustion engine entirely, meaning even plug-in hybrid cars will not be eligible for sale. Further details of the plan will be confirmed by Gove in an announcement this morning. 

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A government spokesman said the plans would help tackle poor air quality in Britain, particularly in major cities such as London, which has broken EU limits on pollution levels – particularly amounts of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, in the atmosphere – for years. 

The new diesel and gasoline sales ban by 2040 will be a key part of a comprehensive, multi-billion-pound air quality plan, which will also force local councils to take steps to improve air quality. It will encourage them to remove restrictions such as speed humps and roundabouts, so cars don't have to slow down and speed up again. 

Existing gasoline and diesel cars already in use will, however, not be banned. The government will gradually encourage green car uptake in coming years instead: it is speculated, for example, a scrappage scheme for the oldest and most polluting cars may follow in the autumn Budget. 

Today's announcement by the British government will follow a similar one made by France a few weeks ago. Volvo also recently made the bold statement it will only sell electrified new cars from 2019.

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