In an interview with SuperIllu, excerpts from which were released earlier this week, Merkel said, "I cannot name a precise year yet [for the petrol and diesel sales ban], but the approach is correct".
In July, the conservative British government announced sales of non-hybrid petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040. This followed on from the newly elected French government's plan to stop of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Unlike many of her European peers, Merkel still prefers diesel-powered vehicles over their petrol brethren, as they emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre travelled. Compared to petrol engines, diesel motors emit significantly more particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
The chancellor told the publication, "We need modern diesel engines, which at the same time meet the NOx emissions standards".
Her government recently convened a National Diesel Forum with the country's top car makers, BMW, Daimler (parent of Mercedes-Benz), Opel, and the Volkswagen Group.
This resulted in the automakers pledging to upgrade the software of around 2.5 million German diesel cars to cut their NOx emissions by up to 30 per cent. In exchange, they gained a commitment by the German states and federal government “to prioritise the avoidance of general driving bans”.
Above: Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ.
To help the transition to electric vehicles, Merkel says the expansion of charging infrastructure must be a priority. The country has already introduced tax incentives for buyers of plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles.
That said, she isn't in favour of introducing quotas for electric cars. According to HybridCars.com, she told attendees at a recent election rally: "I don’t think that the quota for electric cars ... has been well thought out. What would we do if it is not adhered to?”
Merkel and her government will contest an election in around six weeks time. She currently leads a grand coalition government consisting of her Christian Democratic Party (CDU), and its traditional rival, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
The latest polls have Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance around 14 percentage points ahead of the SPD. Merkel has been Germany's chancellor since 2005.