"We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040," Hulot said, calling it a "veritable revolution".
Hulot acknowledged that reaching the target would be "tough", particularly for automakers, but said that France's car industry was well equipped to make the switch.
French car manufacturers Peugeot, Citroen and Renault ranked first, second and third on a 2016 list of large car manufacturers with the lowest carbon emissions, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.
Hulot, a veteran environmental campaigner, was among several political newcomers to whom President Emmanuel Macron gave top jobs in his government.
Several European countries have announced plans to dramatically reduce the amount of polluting petrol and diesel cars on their roads in favour of cleaner hybrid or all-electric vehicles.
Germany aims to put one million electric cars on the road by 2020.
In 2016, hybrid and electric cars accounted for 3.6 percent of new cars registered in Western Europe.