New petrol and diesel cars should be banned from sale in the UK by 2030, Government advisers are saying.
At present, the Government’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is set to come into effect by 2040 (2032 in Scotland), but the Committee on Climate Change believes the date should be brought forward to 2030 – or 2035 at the very latest – as it predicts electric cars will be roughly the same price as their traditionally powered counterparts by around 2024 to 2025, according to the BBC.
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There are, however, a number of issues that could prevent the ban being brought forward in such a way. Concerns have been raised over the size and reliability of the UK’s charging network. Plus, it’s unknown whether there will be enough cobalt to build a sufficient number of electric car batteries by then.
This isn’t the first time that calls have been made for a faster phasing out of petrol and diesel cars in the UK. Current Government policy – set out in the Road to Zero strategy – says “conventional” petrol and diesel cars should be banned by 2040, and only cars that are “effectively” zero emissions should be sold by that date – leaving the door open for new plug-in hybrids to be sold past 2040.
But the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee – a cross-party group of MPs from the Labour, Conservative, and Scottish National parties – has recommended not only that the 2040 date should be brought forward to 2032, but that new plug-in hybrids should also be banned from sale. Experts say this would require consumer demand for zero-emission vehicles to increase by 17,000% in a little over a decade.
The BEIS report published in 2018 claimed, however, that “zero should mean zero”, and urges the Government to set a “precise target for sales of new cars and vans to be truly zero emission by 2032.” This would leave only ‘pure’ electric cars (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf and any future hydrogen cars, like the Hyundai Nexo, on sale in new car showrooms.
In a scathing attack on central policy, the BEIS committee says the Government’s “lack of clarity on the meaning of the 2040 targets is unacceptable.” The MPs recommend “Government either acknowledge that petrol and diesel will ultimately need to be fully phased out from cars and vans, or admit that it is not seeking a zero emissions fleet. It cannot have both.”
Plug-in car grant cuts under fire
Another area under fire in the BEIS report is the recent decision by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to cut grants for electric vehicles by 25 per cent. The BEIS report’s authors say this decision “has been made too soon and too suddenly”, and “risks undermining the UK’s burgeoning EV market”. EV sales made up just 1.7 per cent of all new car registrations last year, though UK residents are the fourth biggest buyers of electric cars (by market share) worldwide.
The UK’s charging infrastructure comes in for criticism. BEIS says “poor provision of charging infrastructure is one of the greatest barriers to growth of the UK EV market”, and warns “public charge points will be required in residential areas for the 40–50% of homes in the UK that do not have off-street parking”. The authors highlight there is just one public charger per 98,800 residents in Wales, compared to the North East, where the ratio is one charger per 3,931.
The BEIS report acknowledges certain policy areas of which it approves, such as the Faraday battery technology challenge, but is also calls Road to Zero “vague and insufficiently ambitious”. The authors cite evidence that claims air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths and costs the UK economy over £20 billion each year.
BEIS says another barrier to electric vehicle ownership is the fact that only 1,600 mechanics are qualified to work on EVs and hybrids, with most of these employed by main dealers.
Importance of UK research and development in electric cars
Finally, BEIS concedes some 856,000 people are employed in the wider UK automotive industry, and acknowledges EV production in the UK is “in its infancy”. On this subject, the report says: “It is important that as any jobs in ICE [internal combustion engine] production are lost, so new ones are created in EVs, batteries and associated technologies.” The BEIS authors recommend, therefore, that longer-term investment is made in EV research and development.
Rachel Reeves MP, chair of the BEIS Committee said: “for all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the Government’s deeds do not match the ambitions of their words.”
Responding to the BEIS report, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the Government’s current 2040 plan is already “extremely challenging, so to fast-track that by eight years would be nigh on impossible.”
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Hawes added: “We said we need world class infrastructure and world class incentives to have any chance of delivering so the recent cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant and lack of charging facilities – both of which are severely criticised by the Committee – show just how difficult it would be to accelerate this transition.”
Hawes pointed out consumer demand for EVs would have to grow by 17,000% in just over a decade to meet the targets recommended by BEIS.
David Martell, chief executive of public charging company BP Chargemaster, said: “The largest factor limiting the growth of the UK EV market today is the number of electric cars physically available.” Martell added consumer demand for EVs currently stands at roughly 100,000 new cars a year, but supply issues mean only around 60,000 are actually available.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said Road to Zero outlines “our ambition for the UK to be the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle”.