2013 Renault Zoe electric carEnlarge Photo
The French government not only grants incentives to buyers of new electric cars, it also encourages the scrapping of older diesel cars.
It presently offers a 10,000-euro ($11,370) bonus to drivers who buy a new electric car and also send a 15-year-old diesel car to the scrapper.
Soon, even more diesel cars will qualify for this scheme.
French Minister of Ecology and Energy Segolene Royal says there are plans to extend the bonus to 10-year-old diesel cars, according to Life in France.
During the announcement Friday, Royal also called for the development of a "popular electric car," with a price ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 euros ($5,685 to $9,000).
She also reiterated a previous proposal to end tax benefits for diesel fuel, and tax it at the same rate as gasoline.
2003 Renault MeganeEnlarge Photo
However, she noted that an immediate alteration of taxes would not be workable, because it would penalize drivers who already own diesel cars.
That includes most French drivers, as diesels currently make up about two thirds of the cars on the country's roads.
Such a policy might be implemented in five years, she said.
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Efforts to limit the number of diesel cars on French roads a represent a reversal of a decades-long policy of encouraging them.
In the 1960s, the French government and auto industry made the decision to move to diesel because of its superior fuel economy.
Now, France is paying for that choice in the form of high levels harmful particulate matter and other pollutants from diesel exhaust.
Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib' car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012Enlarge Photo
Emission limits on diesels in the European Union have lagged those in the U.S. for many years, with cars before 2005 only required to meet minimal Euro 4 standards.
As a result, those vehicles--now eligible for the scrapping incentive in France--emit visible soot as well as high amounts of nitrogen oxides and other harmful gases. The smell of their exhaust is characteristic of any French city.
From 2005 through 2014, the Euro 5 standards brought European cars close to prevailing U.S. limits before 2008.
MORE: Diesel Drivers: Would You Take $13,000 To Switch To Electric Cars? (Aug 2014)
Beginning this year, diesels sold in Europe are being fitted with particulate filters and other aftertreatment systems under the newly-implemented Euro 6 standards.
Those standards roughly align with the regulations in place in the U.S. starting in 2008.
But while new diesel cars will be cleaner, older cars will continue to pollute as long as they are on the road.
That's likely why French officials are so eager not only to get drivers into cleaner new cars, but also to get those drivers to scrap their old cars.