Confirmed: Government to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030

  • Government confirms ban on new petrols and diesels from 2030
  • Hybrids and plug-in hybrids also in the firing line
  • Ban includes vans and pickups

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the government will ban the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars from 2030 and plug-in hybrids from 2035. This measure is part of a 'green industrial revolution' to help in the UK's battle against climate change.

Originally, the government had said that any combustion-engined vehicle – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), vans and pickups – would be forbidden in 2040, but this was moved to 2035 in February 2020. Now it has been confirmed as 2030. Hybrids 'that can travel a significant distance without emissions' will remain on sale until 2035.

This is part of the Prime Minister's plan to jump-start the low-carbon economy and allow the UK to meet the target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Prime Minister wrote: 'the government will invest more than £2.8 billion in electric vehicles, lacing the land with charging points and creating long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories.'

>> What is a hybrid car?
>> What is a plug-in hybrid?
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Once the ban comes into effect, UK buyers will only be allowed to purchase new cars if they’re pure electric or hydrogen-powered.

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise, but they still only represent a small percentage of the UK's new car market. Between January and October 2020, 75,946 electric cars were registered, compared with 28,259 during the same period in 2019 a 200% increase. Plug-in hybrid sales are also on the rise totalling 50,052 during January-October 2020. This is a total of 9.1% of the UK market.

Hyundai Nexo (2021)

Steven Norman, Chief Executive Officer of Vauxhall in the UK warmly greeted the news, saying, 'There's no reason at all that the UK can't be at the vanguard of this move.'

He added: 'We were expecting the announcement, and there will be manufacturing capacity for electric cars by 2030. We think this is fantastic news in the UK that we are taking the lead in the move towards the move to green technology – our entire model range will be available with electric versions.'

How has the UK industry reacted to the news?

Adrian Hallmark, Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors, said: 'Bentley welcomes clarity on the future law for the UK car market. We also welcome the recognition that PHEVs can have in the transition to a fully electric car parc and the key role they can play in immediate and significant CO2 reductions if used properly. Bentley customers are already embracing the plug-in vehicle, with a third owning one today.'

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added: '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. We will now work with government on the detail of this plan, which must be delivered at pace to achieve a rapid transition that benefits all of society, and safeguards UK automotive manufacturing and jobs.'

There are concerns about the infrastructure and cost to the driver in the UK, and Norman acknowledges this. 'We do need to make massive strides in the infrastructure,' he said. 'We as an industry we need to be clearer that it's no more expensive to own and run an electric car. The monthly savings in fuel are massive - and the monthly costs are less when buying on PCP.'

Hawes added: 'Success will depend on reassuring consumers that they can afford these new technologies, that they will deliver their mobility needs and, critically, that they can recharge as easily as they refuel.'

What this means for you

The date is now confirmed, putting the pressure on car buyers as well as car manufacturers. The big question is whether the UK's infractructure will be ready for such a major change. There's also the question of whether carmakers can supply enough cars.

AA president Edmund King said on the 2030 ban: 'This is incredibly ambitious. 'One of the biggest challenges will be for car makers to change more than 100 years of combustion engine production to cater for an electric future within a decade,' he said.

Below is everything you need to know about the ban and how it could affect you.

Can I still drive my petrol or diesel car after the ban?

So far, yes. The ban is on the sale of new vehicles – not the continued use of older ones. This also means that used petrol or diesel cars will still be available.

Is the UK ready to go electric?

While a lot can happen in 10 years, let's not underestimate what a challenge this could be.

The UK’s charging infrastructure still has hurdles to overcome, even if it has come on leaps and bounds. Hopefully, with continued investment from government, car manufacturers and charging providers, it will continue to expand and improve.

For the majority of users, charging at home overnight will remain the best bet. The expansion of a network of rapid chargers, meanwhile, will accommodate those who don’t have somewhere to charge at home, or those undertaking long journeys.

We’re cautiously optimistic that this network will be massively improved by the time the ban comes into force. Even if that is in 2030.

What about commercial vehicles?

It looks as though this ban will extend to vans and pickup trucks weighing under 3.5 tonnes (3.5t or 3,500kg) as well as passenger cars. This will be particularly concerning for businesses.

A viable long-distance zero-emission light commercial vehicle (LCV) has not yet hit the market, with current electric vans suitable only for short journeys with modest payloads.

2020 Renault Twizy Cargo

The ban is now less than a decade off, so we’ll have to live in hope that van manufacturers can provide a solution to this within the timeframe. But when we spoke to senior management working in this area at Ford vans recently, they did not seem to think this was very feasible.

Ford's overall European chief, Stuart Rowley, has responded to the target by saying the company would do its best to meet the obligation, but that including plug-in hybrid vehicles in the proposal would undermine what car and van manufacturers are already trying to do to reduce emissions.

Is hydrogen a viable option?

At the moment? Not remotely. There are only a handful of hydrogen filling stations in the UK and the few vehicles that can use them aren’t on full public sale.

Hydrogen fuel

However, several manufacturers are investing heavily in hydrogen cars, and the infrastructure is sure to follow. It could well be a true alternative by 2030 - but we've been saying this sort of thing about hydrogen for decades.

Infrastructure – the lack of hydrgen fuelling stations, for example – is a severe obstacle here.

Does this mean I shouldn’t buy a hybrid or PHEV?

Not at all. These cars still make a lot of sense for today’s consumers, and there’s nothing to say you can’t still use it after the ban on new sales comes into force in 2035.

Hybrids and PHEVs in particular do sidestep a lot of current legislation on emissions, and they’re a good alternative to diesels for those wishing to drop their fuel bills.