Change of plans
A ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles in the UK will be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 (or earlier if feasible) under government plans.
The change has been announced by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, at the launch of the COP26 climate summit and comes after experts said 2040 would be too late if the UK wants to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.
The original minister's plan excluded some hybrid vehicles that use both engines and batteries - however, the new plan will ban the sale of any vehicle that is not zero emissions. Based on current technology, that would allow only electric or hydrogen vehicles to be sold. Yet, technology still remains more expensive. Pure electric cars are almost double the price of non-electric cars and sales of pure electric vehicles are currently less than 2 percent of the market.
Cleaner, greener future for all
The British prime minister said the world had seen “a catastrophic period of global addiction to hydrocarbons that got totally out of control (...) We have to deal with our CO2 emissions (...) the UK is calling for us to get to net-zero as soon as possible, for every country to announce credible targets to get there. And that’s why we have pledged here in the UK to deliver net-zero by 2050 (...) 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."
Incredibly challenging target
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) branded this idea as "extremely concerning". SMMT boss, Mike Hawes, claims the government has "seemingly moved the goalposts" without a clear plan in place to achieve the goal. "We need to hear how the government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now" - said Hawes.
The motor industry also warns that this new target will not work as intended and instead lead customers to keep their polluting vehicles for longer out of fear of being unable to sell the cleaner hybrid in the future.
Edmund King, AA president, also agrees that the new target is 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 (...) We will also need a package of grants coupled with comprehensive charging infrastructure at homes and in towns, cities, motorways and rural locations (...) At the very least the Government should take up the AA demand to cut VAT on new EVs to boost sales and make vehicles more affordable to those on lower incomes."
How the government plans to archive the goal?
The government said it "will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero-emissions vehicles - helping to deliver new green jobs in the UK". The government has launched a series of policies to promote the uptake of EVs, and sales of plug-in hybrids fell sharply last year after the removal of grants for buyers of them. Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “This government’s £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working; last year a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes." The government predicts that the number of electric vehicles sold will expand massively in coming years, as a flood of new mainstream vehicles reaches the market, the technology reduces in cost and charging infrastructure is massively improved - and it is likely that the bulk of vehicles sold will be fully electric long before 2035.
What will happen to old petrol and diesel vehicles?
There is currently no UK-wide scrappage scheme in place for petrol and diesel vehicles and it is unclear if the government is considering this.
In London, the city's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced a £25m scrappage scheme to take older polluting vehicles off its streets, to reduce CO2 pollution.
The good news is that you will still be able to buy second-hand petrol or diesel car or van in 2035 and drive one you currently own.
There could even be a boom in petrol or diesel sales in 2034, as motorists prepare to buy combustion engines for the final time.