Mercedes to abandon combustion engines by 2039

The manufacturer aims to make all its models electric or hybrids within two decades

The Mercedes EQ concept car.

German giant Mercedes-Benz this week announced plans to stop selling traditional combustion engine cars by 2039 and make all of its new vehicles sold worldwide by that time carbon-neutral. In additon, the company also pledges to lean on wind power and other forms of clean energy in the future to make its vast manufacturing operations cleaner.

“We aim to have a carbon-neutral new passenger car fleet in 20 years,” said Ola Kallenius, current head of Mercedes research, who is to succeed Dieter Zetsche as chairman of the Daimler group this week.

For all Mercedes models to be electric or hybrids within two decades, however, the company admits that different approaches were needed.

“Our current focus is on battery-electric mobility. But there’s also room and need to continue to work on other solutions, for example, the fuel cell or eFuels,” Kallenius explained in a statement.

As a reason behind the overhaul, Mercedes explicitly cited environmental worries.

“We have set a clear course to help prevent further acceleration of climate change," the auto maker said in a statement, adding that the Paris climate accord is "more than an obligation -- it's our conviction.

"That’s why we encourage policy makers to pave the way for tech neutrality: Let’s fix the target, but not the means to achieve it,” Kallenius added.

The announcement came as German car manufacturers are taking the plunge on electric power faced with looming tougher emissions rules in the European Union from 2020, loaded with hefty financial penalties if they are breached. And so far the target, described as a "fundamental transformation of our company," appears to be far more aggressive than the ones previously announced by Volkswagen and other major auto makers.

In March, rival VW announced it will launch 70 electric models in a decade and be completely carbon neutral by 2050. The company, which also owns the Audi, Bentley and Porsche brands, also said it aims to make electric vehicles at least 40% of its total sales by 2040.

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