Wolfsburg - Volkswagen says it will begin rolling out its last generation of combustion engine cars in 2026, in its latest green pledge as it looks to turn the corner on the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

The carmaker said it would phase out its diesel and petrol cars as it looks to meet the emissions targets of the 2015 Paris climate deal by 2050. 

Michael Jost, Volkswagen's strategy chief, told an industry conference on Tuesday that the firm's employees were working on "the last platform for vehicles that aren't CO2 neutral". 

"We're gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum," he said at the conference near the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. 

The group, through its multitude of brands that also includes Seat, Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley) has set itself the ambitious target of offering more than 50 electric models by 2025, up from six today.

Jost said that last generation of vehicles would begin to roll out in 2026 and predicted that the last vehicle with a combustion engine would be sold around 2040, according to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, whose car conference he spoke at.     

That does not necessarily bode well for South Africa with its continuous electricity woes and lagging charging infrastructure.          

Closing the gap

In November's announcement the group said its "electric offensive" would focus on electric, self-driving and connected cars as well as mobility services like car sharing.

The move underscores just how serious the carmaker is about closing the gap with Asian rivals and America's Tesla, who have had a head start in the e-car race.

Volkswagen's pivot towards e-cars has in part been spurred by efforts to shake off its ongoing "dieselgate" scandal.

The saga also fuelled a backlash against diesel, with a string of German cities now facing driving bans for the oldest, most polluting diesel cars.

Faced with increasingly angry drivers, the German government has come under pressure to avoid the bans but its efforts to get carmakers to commit to cleaning up engines have had limited success.

Agence France-Presse