France says diesel cars a 'mistake,' announces phase-out plans

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the European auto market knows that diesel-fueled vehicles take up a huge portion of the roads there. A combination of high fuel efficiency, useful torque in tightly packed cities, low CO2 emissions and tax incentives all contribute to the popularity. However, ever the iconoclasts, the French government wants the oil burners off its roads in the coming years.

"In France, we have long favoured the diesel engine. This was a mistake, and we will progressively undo that, intelligently and pragmatically," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a speech, according to Reuters. Under his plan, the country would begin ranking vehicles by the pollution they create next year, and cities would be free to limit access from the worst offenders.

In addition, Valls plans to use taxation to push drivers to other options. Part of the plan includes raising the tax on diesel by two cents per liter in 2015. Also, drivers who trade in their oil-burner for an electric vehicle are eligible for up to 10,000 euros ($12,500), according to Reuters. The only problem with that, though, is that France's network of nuclear power plants might not be able to take the added load of so many EVs charging.

The country's environment minister suggested a similar tax hike on oil-burners in 2013 to improve public health. While the fuel has its advantages, diesel emits more nitrogen dioxide than gasoline. One report claimed that the substance could cause 420,000 premature deaths in Europe each year.

The move could rankle the roughly 80 percent of French drivers who own diesel-fueled cars, but it's the latest attempt to lower pollution levels in France. A proposed plan earlier this summer could cover much of Paris with an 19-mile-per-hour speed limit (30 km/h). There was also a very brief attempt to limit cars from entering the capital by their license plate number.

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