General Motors aims to stop selling petrol or diesel cars by 2035, the first of the world’s biggest carmakers to set a deadline for its final sales of passenger vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

As part of a plan to become carbon neutral by 2040, the Chevrolet and Buick owner “aspires to eliminate tailpipe emissions” from its entire range of light-duty vehicles, it said on Thursday.

While other carmakers have set dates for ending the sale of traditional engines, most will switch to hybrid technology, which combine a smaller petrol or diesel engine with a battery.

Neither of the world’s two biggest carmakers, Toyota nor Volkswagen, have set a date for completely phasing out traditional engines, although they plan to invest billions into electric and hydrogen technology.

“Our most significant carbon impact comes from tailpipe emissions of the vehicles that we sell — in our case, it’s 75 per cent,” GM chief executive Mary Barra said.

“That is why it is so important that we accelerate toward a future in which every vehicle we sell is a zero-emissions vehicle.”

The largest version of the Chevrolet Silverado, a medium-duty pick-up truck, is not covered by the 2035 pledge as it is sold as a commercial vehicle. But it is included in the company’s wider ambition to fully decarbonise by 2040, the group said.

Nissan said this week that all of its vehicles launched in Japan, the US and China would be either electric or hybrid by the “early 2030s”.

Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, is the most ambitious of any brand to date. Its chief executive Hakan Samuelsson told the FT last year he expects to sell only electric cars by 2030. However, it is relatively modest, selling 670,000 cars last year compared with the millions sold by the world leading groups that include GM.

GM has already announced it plans to invest about $27bn into developing electric and autonomous technology, and plans to launch 30 battery-only models worldwide before 2025.

The company has developed its own Ultium battery system, which it wants to license to rival carmakers to expand its scale and recoup development costs.

While GM has already pulled out of Europe, which is the fastest-growing region for electric cars, it still operates in China, the world’s largest battery car market.

Carmakers across the world are racing to develop electric cars to meet tightening emissions rules across regions such as Europe and China.

In the US, the election of Joe Biden as president is expected to lead to a strengthening of US fuel economy rules, which will boost the prospects for electric cars there.

GM expects that 40 per cent of its US line-up will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025. The group wants all of its US plants to be powered by renewable energy by 2030, with its international facilities by 2035.

Other carmakers have set carbon neutral targets, with Toyota, Nissan, VW and Ford all expecting to be neutral by 2050.