There could be even less time to buy a brand new purely internal combustion-powered car in the UK than previously thought. The government initially proposed banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2040, subsequently bringing that forward to 2035 or even sooner if possible.
Number 10 has indeed decided that a swifter cull is feasible, with the announcement of a new target of 2030 as part of a 10-point green initiative. Yep, well within 10 years. “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,” Prime Minster Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
This will encompass all cars powered solely by petrol or diesel plus closed-system hybrids, with “hybrid cars that can drive a significant distance without emitting carbon” to be given a reprieve until 2035. Beyond that year, only fully electric cars will remain available to buy new.
Understandably, there will be concerns as to how doable this is, and the kind of impact it’ll have on the car industry. Of all the cars sold in the UK last year, just six per cent where either full EVs or plug-in hybrids in 2019, and although this figure is climbing steadily, the market has a long way to go in just nine years.
Electric vehicles remain significantly more expensive than their petrol or diesel-powered counterparts. A Peugeot e-208, for example, starts at £25,050, compared to £16,310 for the cheapest ICE version - a sizeable gap even though the former’s price is reduced by £3500 thanks to a government grant.
The UK’s public charging network also has to expand significantly if it’s to rise to the challenge of mass EV ownership. It’s moving in the right direction, having increased five-fold since 2015, but only a sixth of the network is made up by rapid chargers. Easy access to powerful chargers will be a must for anyone who can’t rely on a driveway at home to park and juice up their car on overnight. To that end, the government has pledged £1.3 billion to “accelerate the rollout of chargepoints for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways across England”. It will also spend a further £500 million to help establish a site to manufacture battery packs in the country.
The 2030 target will also give the government money headaches, and you’re not going to like the solution mooted. The fuel and vehicle excise duty the government will miss out on is set to create a £40 billion black hole in its budget, which it could fill using road pricing. According to The Times, chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be “very interested” in implementing it to raise lost funds.
Reacting to the news, AA president Edmund King said :“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,” adding, “If we can tackle these issues with considerable investment and focus, the electric revolution could flourish.”
This article was updated on 18 November to reflect the government’s official announcement