The European Commission is proposing a reduction to zero of CO2 emissions from new cars sold in the bloc by 2035 in a plan that will effectively ban sales of cars with gasoline and diesel engines.
The Commission also seeks a 55 percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030 compared with 2021 levels, lifting an earlier target of a 37.5 percent reduction by the end of the decade.
The proposals are part of a broad climate package unveiled on Wednesday that aim to speed up the switch to zero-emission electric vehicles.
European car industry association ACEA said banning a specific technology was not a rational way forward, adding that internal combustion engines, including hybrids needed to play a role in the transition.
Environmental campaigners, however, welcomed the Commission's proposal.
"This is a turning point for the auto industry and good news for drivers," said William Todts, executive director of the Transport & Environment green lobby group based in Brussels.
"The new EU rules will democratize electric cars and give a major boost to charging, meaning clean cars will soon be affordable and easy to charge for millions of Europeans," Todts said in a statement.
The auto emissions goal is part of the Commission's Fit for 55 package announced on Wednesday to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 in a step toward "net zero" emissions by 2050.
Passenger cars account for about 12 percent of total EU CO2 emissions, so curbing that output will be key to achieving the bloc’s overall climate goals.
The measures will require approval by member states and the European parliament, a process that could take about two years.
Some European automakers have already announced they will switch to zero-emissions cars in Europe.
IHS Markit said: "It is clear that if these stretch goals are implemented as solid proposals to be voted into legislation, carmakers that have been bolder and invested heavily earlier on in electrification will have a significant advantage."
But the zero emissions target for 2035 likely will meet with opposition in countries with major auto industries such as Germany and France.
More charging points
To boost sales EV sales, Brussels also proposed legislation that would require countries to install public charging points no more than 60 km (37.3 miles) apart on major roads by 2025.
It foresees 3.5 million public charging stations for cars and vans by 2030, rising to 16.3 million by 2050.
"The transition to electric vehicles is going much faster than anybody had ever anticipated, but then we are under an obligation to create the right incentives for that," said Frans Timmermans, the EU's head of climate change policy. "So the charging infrastructure should be there."
Even when buyers have been able to afford the price premium for a part- or all-electric vehicle, many have been deterred by "range anxiety" because of a lack of public charging stations.
The Commission estimates 80-120 billion euros ($95-$142 billion) will need to be spent on public and private chargers across the EU by 2040.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report