New conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from sale in the UK from 2030 – here’s everything you need to know
All new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans are set to be banned from sale in the UK in 2030. New hybrids will be given a stay of execution until 2035, on the condition they are capable of covering a "significant distance" in zero-emission mode – a term which the Government has yet to define. Likewise, new plug-in hybrids will remain in showrooms for another five years, before being outlawed in 2035.
After 2035, the only new cars and vans that can be sold will be pure electric ones, plus any hydrogen-powered cars, that may exist at that point. Second-hand cars will be unaffected by the ban, however, allowing petrol and diesel cars, plus conventional hybrids without "significant" zero-emission capability, to change hands on the used market after 2030. The EU has announced its plan to ban petrol and diesel cars from 2035 although smaller manufacturers may be given an extension.
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To help facilitate the transition from fossil-fuel cars in the UK, £1.3 billion of investment was announced in 2020 for EV chargepoints for homes, streets and motorways across England. A further £582 million was set aside for grants to help people and businesses into EVs and PHEVs. The Government is also investing in battery development and mass production, while more money was earmarked for nuclear power plants, partly to help meet the demand for electricity the growing number of EVs will bring.
On announcing the measures, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “My Ten Point Plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050.
“Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.”
Buyers are undoubtedly turning to alternatively fuelled cars in great numbers, with 22 per cent of new registrations being EVs and PHEVs in September 2022. Nonetheless, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders previously called an acceleration of the 2040 ban “extremely concerning”, adding that “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.” More recently, UK car industry figures have expressed their concerns over the 2030 deadline and the new Euro 7 emissions regulations.
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Background to the ban: how we get to 2030
A ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars was first announced by then-environment secretary, Michael Gove, in 2017. Back then, the date was set for 2040 and, after several clarifications, it emerged any new car with any kind of internal combustion engine would be banned from sale by that date.
The shifting sands of future policy saw a consultation launched in 2020 to investigate if a ban in 2035, "or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible” should be introduced, with hybrids included in the proposals. Both 2035 and an earlier date were clearly been deemed 'feasible' by the Government following that review and the 2030 date was announced in 2020, with some wiggle room for plug-in hybrids with 'significant' electric range.
There are approximately 33 million cars on the road in the UK, based on 2021 data. Of these, roughly 441,000 are electric cars and a further 339,000 are plug-in hybrids. In the first quarter of 2022, the UK registered 252,000 new petrol and diesel cars, 81,000 hybrid cars, 30,000 plug-in hybrid cars and 64,000 pure electric cars. Electric car registrations were up 102% on the previous year while new petrol and diesel car registrations were down 11% and 52% respectively.
The ban on petrol and diesel cars is part of a wider £12 billion ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ that the Government hopes will create 250,000 jobs as the country invests more in battery technology, carbon capture, and green energy. The UK’s “industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, Scotland and Wales”, will be key to the coming changes, with 50,000 jobs, and £1 billion of investment in “areas such as the Humber, Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth and Port Talbot” alone.
Your petrol and diesel ban questions answered
Can I still drive a petrol and diesel car after 2030, and a hybrid with a "significant" zero emission range after 2035?
Yes. The bans on these dates only apply to sales of new cars, and there are no current plans to outlaw the use or sale of second-hand cars based on these criteria.
Electric cars are still too expensive, though. Will anything be done to bring prices down?
Electric cars are significantly more expensive than conventional ones at present, a situation that wasn't helped by the end of the UK plug-in car grant, but the difference is narrowing. It can be difficult for manufacturers to turn a profit on some EVs but Looking forwards to the next decade, it’s possible that increased manufacturing volumes and economies of scale will see this improve and prices come down.
I don’t have off-street parking. How will I charge an electric car?
A number of solutions exist or are in development for this. Chargers that pop out from the kerb and lamp post chargers are two such options. Furthermore, as the number of electric vehicles in the country increases, so to will charging stations. Expect these to become more commonplace at supermarkets, pubs and restaurants, cinemas, leisure centres, and other locations over the next decade.
A change of mindset will also be required, with EV users highlighting the approach people take to charging their smartphones as being similar to topping up EVs: rather than always doing big overnight charges, for example, regular top-ups will keep people’s cars moving.
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I cover above average mileages. Will my journeys take longer?
The average UK motorist drives around 21 miles a day, but many people do more. EV ranges are commonly increasing, however, with 200-300 miles from a single charge a realistic figure for many modern electric cars. Journeys of such length would typically bring with them pit-stops at motorway services, where fast charging can add a meaningful amount of range in as little as 30 minutes, and a £1.3 billion fund helping make such chargers more plentiful.
I’m a van driver. How will this affect me?
Vans, also known as light commercial vehicles, are also affected by the 2030 and 2035 bans. Just as EV technology has developed rapidly for cars, so has it for vans. The new Ford E-Transit, for example, has a range of 217 miles, the same cargo capacity as its diesel counterpart, and is due for release in 2022. Expect more such vehicles over the next decade and, while electric vans are likely to be more expensive to buy than diesel models, running costs can be lower thanks to the lack of engines to service, and diesel tanks to fill up.
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What about National Grid? Can the UK’s electricity supply cope with all these extra EVs?
Indications are that this will not be a problem. There are around 30 million petrol and diesel cars in the UK, but these will not be replaced overnight, and the phase-in of EVs will be gradual. Assuming new-car sales figures continue at their current pace of roughly two million a year, it’ll be 15 years before the UK’s petrol and diesel cars are replaced.
National Grid has previously stated that “enough capacity exists” for the transition to EVs, while its modelling predicts that even if all the UK’s cars became electric overnight, demand would only increase by 10 per cent.
Furthermore, smart charging, where EVs communicate with the electricity network and vice versa, will see charging take place during times of off-peak demand for many drivers. Energy firms are trying to get the right, however, to switch off charging EVs if the network can’t cope.
What about mining materials such as cobalt and lithium? Aren’t there environmental concerns and worries over working conditions related to battery materials?
Yes, there are. An Auto Express investigation from 2018 revealed a number of manufacturers make cars with batteries containing cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where unlicensed mines and child workers both exist.
Manufacturers are working to tackle this issue, though, with Volvo using blockchain technology to track the provenance of battery materials, and Tesla greatly reducing the amount of cobalt in its batteries, for example.
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2030 ban: industry reaction
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said the UK car industry shares the "government’s ambition for leadership in decarbonising road transport and are committed to the journey. Manufacturers have invested billions to deliver vehicles that are already helping thousands of drivers switch to zero, but this new deadline, fast-tracked by a decade, sets an immense challenge."
Hawes said SMMT was pleased "to see Government accept the importance of hybrid transition technologies – which drivers are already embracing as they deliver carbon savings now – and commit to additional spending on purchase incentives. Investment in EV manufacturing capability is equally welcome as we want this transition to be ‘made in the UK’, but if we are to remain competitive – as an industry and a market – this is just the start of what’s needed."
He warned, however, that EV affordability, plus the ability for electric cars to "recharge as easily" conventional cars can refuel, would be critical.
Edmund King, president of the AA, called the 2030 ban “incredibly ambitious”, but said the transition to EVs was “welcome.” King added: “Consistently, the barriers to EV ownership are: the initial cost of the car and availability, perceived single-charge range anxiety and charging infrastructure – particularly for the third of drivers without off-street parking. If we can tackle these issues with considerable investment and focus, the electric revolution could flourish.”
Calling the concession to plug-in hybrids “welcome”, King said: “investing heavily in the national charging network, battery production and providing incentives will help.”
Luxury car brand Bentley recently announced its intention to become an electric-only manufacturer by 2030. Its chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark welcomed the "clarity" brought by the Government's announcement, as well as the recognition of the "key role" PHEVs can play in "immediate and significant CO2 reductions".
He added: "We also acknowledge the Government’s new ambitious yet necessary targets and timelines, and the focus now needs to shift on to creating and implementing a cross-industry plan to bring infrastructure and customers along on this important journey."
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