Banning petrol and diesel cars: what does it mean?

The UK government has announced that new petrol and diesel car sales will end from 2030. Here's what you need to know.

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The government has announced that new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol or diesel will be banned from 2030, while “some” hybrid vehicles will continue to be sold until 2035.

Today’s announcement, which comes after months of speculation, brings the end of new internal combustion cars forward by a decade from what was originally announced three years ago, and five years earlier than what was said back in February this year.

The ban applies only to new car sales. Used cars are not affected, so any existing petrol or diesel cars will still be allowed to remain in use after 2030. The rules will presumably also only apply to vehicles that are registered for use on public roads, so track-only cars should be unaffected.

Currently, about 90% of all new cars sold in the UK are the kind that won’t be sold after 2030, so there is still a long way to go to actually make all of the above happen. The government has announced more than £500 million in incentives to buy electric cars, and about £1.3 billion to support the installation of charging points to plug all these cars into. On top of that, car companies and private industry will end up spending billions to develop new cars and install new charging infrastruture. There’s a lot of work to do.

So here are the key dates for each fuel type:

  • Petrol: no new sales from 2030
  • Diesel: no new sales from 2030
  • Mild hybrid: no new sales from 2030
  • Regular hybrid: Probably no new sales from 2030
  • Plug-in hybrid: no new sales from 2035
  • Electric cars: no change

What’s the deal with hybrids?

The government announcement specifies that new hybrid vehicles “that can drive a significant distance when no carbon is coming out of the tailpipe” can be sold until 2035. However, we don’t as yet know what “a significant distance” actually means.

Mild hybrid cars can’t run on electrical power alone, so the petrol or diesel engine is always running and therefore there will always be carbon coming out of the tailpipe. Therefore, they will be banned from 2030 along with regular petrol and diesel vehicles.

Regular hybrids (sometimes marketed as ‘self-charging’ hybrids) can currently only run for a short distance on electrical power, so are unlikely to be allowed to continue beyond 2030. However, battery technology is continually improving so it’s possible that some car manufacturers may be able to develop hybrid vehicles that can meet the government criteria for running “a significant distance” on electrical power. We’ll have to wait and see.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can already run for “a significant distance” on electrical power, so they will remain on sale until 2035. At the moment, most PHEVs still rely heavily on the petrol engine, but in 15 years’ time it’s likely that plug-in hybrids will be predominantly electric cars, with the petrol engine only there to provide back-up on longer journeys.

Should I still buy a new petrol car today?

The vast majority (about 90%) of private new car purchases are made with PCP car finance, which means that most people buying a new car in 2020 will be looking to replace that car no later than 2024 – still six years ahead of these new rules coming into force.

For most consumers, petrol is still the default option for a new car. That’s going to change rapidly over the next decade, but if you were planning to buy a new petrol car before today’s announcement then there’s no real reason to change your decision now.

What you will probably find is that the costs of running a petrol car will start to become more expensive in the next few years. As the government moves to encourage people to switch from fossil fuels to electric power, this will almost certainly mean increasing taxes for petrol and diesel cars. So you can look forward to higher road tax, more expensive fuel, additional congestion charges and so on. Resale values will start falling as well, which means PCP prices will start creeping up in coming years.

What about used cars?

Used cars are unaffected by today’s announcement, so you will still be able to buy a second-hand petrol or diesel car after 2030. However, you can still expect to suffer high taxes and charges as mentioned above.

Can I still drive my current petrol car after 2030?

Yes. The ban only applies to the sale of new cars, so any new petrol or diesel cars can only be sold up until 31 December 2029. As long as you buy one before then, you can keep driving it.

A date has not been specified for the eventual banning of all petrol and diesel cars from UK roads, but that’s a bigger step than banning new cars. There are about 32 million cars on UK roads right now, and about 31.8 million of those are powered by petrol or diesel. It has been suggested that 2050 could be the end date for all fossil fuel cars to be removed from roads, but we don’t know.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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The UK government has announced that new petrol and diesel car sales will end from 2030. Here's what you need to know.

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