• France moving to all electric cars by 2040 (AAP)
SBS World News Radio: France has announced an ambitious plan to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
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7 Jul - 3:00 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul - 3:41 PM

It is a celebratory moment in Paris as France's environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, smashes a champagne bottle against a boat.

He is christening the Energy Observer, the world's first boat to be powered solely by wind, solar and hydrogen energy.

The vessel is about to embark on a round-the-world journey lasting six years, all to raise awareness about renewable energy.

The Minister says it is important for the government to nurture such technologies, but France's bold plan for fighting climate change does not stop at the seas.

On the same day, he has announced a plan which could dramatically change the look of French roads -- and the country's air quality.

"We will announce the end of sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040."

It is part of a five-year plan to wean France off fossil fuels and help meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

The goal is to make the country carbon-neutral by 2050 and reduce nuclear energy from its power mix.

At the news conference announcing the plan, the Environment Minister called the ban on petrol and diesel cars a revolution.

"A new theme is to make France the number one in the green economy by making the Paris agreement an opportunity for creativity, innovation and employment. This is very important and it's one of the objectives, the desires, we have, and I hope I will succeed: reconciling economy and ecology."

The surprise announcement comes after the Swedish car-maker Volvo has revealed its plan to phase out petrol-only cars by 2019.

From then, all of its new makes will be either electric or hybrids, making Volvo the first major manufacturer to electrify all of its models.

The company's president, Hakan Samuelsson, has told Radio Sweden it is not just an environment-led decision, but also a business one.

"We are reacting to customer demand, asking for electrified cars, and, of course, it's also the way for us to come down when it comes to CO2 levels and reducing our carbon footprint."

Analysts say the move also comes because of regulations around emissions for car-makers.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Darren Jukes says most manufacturers, like Volvo, have some kind of a strategy around electric vehicles.

"Well, I think we just need to sort of bear this ... put this into context, so, what all the manufacturers have announced are a move towards more electric features within vehicles. Largely, this can be around hybrid vehicles. You know, the move towards 100 per cent pure electric vehicles is still some way off. What we're seeing is a gradual transition through technology, so the combination of various combustion engines with electric motors in order to provide hybrid technology. So I don't think we're seeing the end of combustion engines just yet."

France is not the first country to make a move towards less-polluting cars either.

India has said it wants all cars electric-powered by 2030.

Norway, where sales of electric cars are booming, says it wants to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025.

And car giant Germany says it wants to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.