New petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale in the UK from 2030, 10 years ahead of target.
The sale of some hybrid cars will, however, continue until 2035.
Prime minster Boris Johnson confirmed the plans in an article for the FT, as part of a 10-point “green industrial revolution”.
Here we explain what the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban means for motorists.
Which cars will be banned and when?
The government is clear on conventional petrol and diesel cars: their sale will end in 2030. This will also include hybrid vehicles that can only drive a short distance in 100% zero emissions mode.
The requirements for plug-in hybrids are less clear. The PM states “we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035”.
There is currently no confirmation of any minimum pure electric distance requirements. The government says this will be “defined through consultation”.
Why has the government bought forward the ban?
Phasing out combustion engine vehicles is a key part of the UK meeting its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Former PM Theresa May committed the UK to this target in 2019, making the UK the first major economy to do so. Current PM Boris Johnson has maintained the goal.
George Freeman MP confirmed in January 2020 the government was consulting about bringing forward the 2040 ban to help motorists “get with the programme”.
Will I still be able to drive my current petrol and diesel car?
Yes. Ministers are keen to stress that motorists will still be able to drive conventional cars after 2030. It is only the sale of new ones that will be banned.
This means the existing infrastructure, including filling stations, will also continue for many years.
How will the government make up the shortfall in fuel tax?
The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns £40bn in road taxes is at risk from the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban. “Some form of road pricing will be needed,” said director Paul Johnson.
“The government needs to get started now – it will be very hard to introduce after people have got used to no tax.”
What about classic and retro cars?
As there are currently no plans to ban the use of petrol and diesel cars already on the road, classic cars and retro motors will not be affected.
It is expected the government will continue to consider vehicles aged 40 years and older as historics, enabling their continued use even within ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZ).
Will motorists get help to buy new electric cars?
The government has committed £582m to help motorists make the switch to electric cars.
This is likely to be an extension of the current £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant; more details are to be confirmed.
How does the UK ban compare to other countries?
The UK’s 2030 petrol and diesel car ban is the one of the world’s most ambitious targets, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Only Norway is more ambitious with a target date of 2025 to ban the sale of new combustion engine cars.
France and Spain have pledged to ban new petrol and diesel cars in 2040.
Will electric car charging infrastructure be improved?
To help make the switch, the government will invest £1.3bn to roll out more electric vehicle charging points for homes, streets and trunk roads.
Will the National Grid cope?
Critics frequently suggest more electric cars will lead to power cuts as the National Grid won’t be able to cope. Its director Graeme Cooper has dismissed these concerns.
Supplying energy to recharge electric cars would require around a third more energy than today’s demand, “which the grid could easily cope with”.
Even if motorists all plugged their cars in as soon as they got home, peak demand would only climb by 10 percent, he estimated.
Will UK industry benefit from the ban?
The government has committed almost £500m to develop and produce electric vehicle batteries in the UK. The PM envisions these will be “made in the Midlands”, a region that will also get a boost in the number of electric vehicle technicians.
Will diesel trucks be banned?
The 2030 petrol and diesel car ban currently doesn’t extend to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).
Instead, the government will launch a consultation on the phase-out of diesel trucks, although no target date has been set.
It is hoped hydrogen fuel cell trucks will help make the switch from diesel lorries: electric trucks are unlikely to deliver the range needed for long-distance transport of 46-tonne vehicles.
What does the car industry say?
SMMT: Chief executive Mike Hawes said the automotive industry is “committed to the journey” in decarbonising road transport. He also welcomed the 2035 hybrid transition target and said the organisation will “now work with the government on the detail of this plan, which must be delivered at pace”.
Auto Trader: Director Ian Plummer says in order to meet the government’s 2030 target, the sale of EVs must overtake traditional cars by 2024. “But on the current sales trajectory, this won’t happen until 2029. It’s clear that electric vehicles need to be the preferred option to the masses but that isn’t the case yet. Over the last six months, while supply levels of EVs have increased with the launch of several new models, consumer demand hasn’t increased at the same pace. The incredibly ambitious targets are empty without a clear, substantial path to help consumers make the change to EVs.”
RAC: The car industry and charging infrastructure providers “now have an enormous task on their hands,” said head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes. “The country’s public charging network will need to grow exponentially to cater for the surge in EVs on the road.” He added motorists also face a “big learning curve” to get confident about going electric.
AA: President Edmund King called the 2030 target “incredibly ambitious, but the transformation to electric cars is welcome”. He said the barriers to EV ownership are the initial cost and availability, perceived range anxiety and charging infrastructure: tackle these issues and “the electric revolution could flourish”.
NFDA: “The new deadline is challenging,” said Sue Robinson, chief executive of auto retail trade body the NFDA. “Strong incentives are key to ensuring the UK remains a strong consumer market for electric cars as the market begins to mature. We have to avoid a situation where the least well-off car drivers are deterred from buying a new car when the time comes to replace their old one.”
BVRLA: The rental association’s members are responsible for 1 in 2 new car registrations. It has welcomed the decision but warns that setting dates is only the start of the process. “Now the Government needs to create the supportive environment that will enable fleets and motorists to step up to the challenge of decarbonising road transport. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap,” said chief executive Gerry Keaney.
Deloitte: Head of electric vehicles Jamie Hamilton said the commitment “should help convince consumers that it is worth investing in the technology ahead of the 2030 deadline”. The EV sector is already on a sharp upward trajectory and the announcement “is likely to prompt an acceleration of sales… however, this will only happen if consumers are convinced that the necessary charging infrastructure is in place”.
Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership: MD Andy Eastlake called the announcement a “critical milestone” in Europe’s second-largest car market. “We’re setting a bold example to countries around the world… however, don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. This throws down the gauntlet to industry, government and the public… the real work starts now.”
Petrol Retailers Association: “People driving used ICE [petrol and diesel} vehicles are generally those with less disposable income,” said chairman Brian Madderson. “Penalising ICE drivers who can’t afford to make the transition to an EV is no way to foster a new market in alternative fuels. As ever, the biggest tax burden will fall on those least able to afford it.”
LeasePlan UK: MD Alfonso Martinez says the government still needs to address “the elephant in the room: what happens to EV supply post Brexit? We run the risk of simply not having enough vehicles to meet the demand”. He also called for “urgent investments in EV charging infrastructure, particularly in rural areas”.