The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK will be brought forward to 2035 under new government plans to be announced today.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is launching the COP26 climate conference, which will take place in November in Glasgow, where he will urge other countries to follow the UK’s example by setting emissions targets to reach net zero.
As part of this drive, the government will consult on bringing forward the planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035 – and earlier if possible.
Unlike the previous announcement and the 2040 date, this latest plan would also ban the sale of new hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, leaving only electric cars (powered by either batteries or hydrogen fuel cells) exempt.
Johnson said: “Hosting COP26 is an important opportunity for the UK and nations across the globe to step up in the fight against climate change. As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions.
“There can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a Global Britain is prouder to serve. 2020 must be the year we turn the tide on global warming– it will be the year when we choose a cleaner, greener future for all.”
Andrea Leadsom, business and energy secretary, said: “The UK has a proud record in tackling climate change and making the most of the enormous economic potential of clean technologies.
“This is my number one priority, and we will raise our ambition in this year of climate action, including with new plans to decarbonise every sector, enabling a greener future for all our children.”
The ‘Road to Zero’ needs a road map
As yet, no detail exists on the government’s plan, which will require enormous investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and a plan to start disposing of millions of perfectly serviceable petrol, diesel and hybrid cars that will quickly become worthless as customers shift towards electric vehicles.
The plan will go out for consultation after the announcement, but spokespeople from all sides have already got their soundbites in. Unsurprisingly, environmental groups have criticised the 2035 date for not being ambitious enough, while the car industry has inevitably complained that it’s unrealistic and will threaten jobs.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), described the current state of the UK’s charging network as “woefully inadequate” and called for government to clarify its plans.
He said, “With current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment.”
Edmund King, AA president, said the new target for a ban on combustion-engined new car sales was incredibly challenging. “We must question whether we will have a sufficient supply of a full cross-section of zero emissions vehicles in less than fifteen years,” he said.
“We will also need a package of grants coupled with a comprehensive charging infrastructure at homes and in towns, cities, motorways and rural locations.
“At the very least, the Government should cut VAT on new EVs to boost sales and make vehicles more affordable to those on lower incomes.”
He also raised concerns that hybrids would be excluded from sale under the plans.
Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said that most car buyers were still resistant to switching to a fully-electric car. “The government needs to look closely at the schemes that are on offer,” he said.
“The major issue remains access to charging points. There is clearly resistance from car owners to switch until they are confident there’s a charging infrastructure in place that will be able to cope with demand.
“Although the green argument is a powerful one, and many of us would happily drive less polluting cars, too many people who rely on their vehicles every day are concerned about the number of available public and private electric charging points.
“When we polled UK drivers recently about switching to electric, an inadequate charging infrastructure was the most common reason cited by respondents as to why they wouldn’t consider switching to an electric car over the next five years.”
Dan Hutson from car insurance comparison site CompareTheMarket.com echoed these sentiments: “To really kickstart the move from diesel and petrol to electric, however, the Government needs to go a lot further in terms of electric vehicle infrastructure. Public charging points in metropolitan areas are in dire need.
“With off-street parking a rarity, uptake of electric vehicles will be slow without the installation of hundreds of easy-to-access charge points across UK cities.”