This move follows the news back in February that the Government was bringing the ban forward from 2040 to 2035. Even back then, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested that 2032 was a possibility, but momentum has built behind 2030 thanks in no small part to pressure from NGOs such as the Committee on Climate Change and the centrist One Nation Group of politicians.
It follows recent reports that the global climate has passed the point where warming could be brought back down to levels previously considered attainable, and we're now simply fighting to curtail the worst effects.
Obvious benefits to the environment aside, the move is driven in part by a desire to kick-start the UK electric car market – which is growing but still accounts for less than seven per cent of new car sales on a month-by-month basis. In the wake of the coronavirus and the wide-ranging negative impacts of Brexit, a new green economy could help shore up the UK's mounting losses, with 2030 giving businesses a goal to work towards.
It'll also be a big step in the government hitting the net zero by 2050 goal, which is something that this current administration seems to be taking seriously. Add to the fact that the UK is hosting the UN COP26 climate conference next year, and grandstanding on a global stage is another potential reason why the government is showing political willing on climate change.
Where the ban does offer a compromise is in the sale of hybrid cars, the ban for which is looking likely to be 2035, offering a longer transition period for 'half way house' type cars. The chances are that this is a concession to manufacturers like Toyota and Honda who have previously threatened their place in the UK if hybrids are outlawed.
At present, around a quarter of new cars are now hybrid, mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid, though the cynic in us would argue that the first two in this list, which can't run in any meaningful way on electric only, ought not to be included in a 2035 extension.
The announcement has been met with a flurry of responses from industry commentators, bodies and rival political parties. Naturally, they cover the full spectrum of the ban not being enough, to it being far too hasty, but below is what just a few of the key players in the automotive – and EV – industry have to say.
Response from Labour and the Green Party has been critical. Shadow Business Secretary, Ed Miliband, said that the allocated £4bn does “not remotely meet the scale of what is needed” and criticised the funding, suggesting “only a fraction of the funding announced today is new”. Caroline Lucas, of the Green Party, welcomed the measures but echoed Labour's sentiments saying it is “nowhere near ambitious enough, it's not urgent enough, it's not bold enough”.
Industry body, the SMMT, was supportive of the opportunity for the UK car industry, but recognised the scale of the challenge with Chief Executive Mike Hawes saying: “We share 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.
“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.”
Fleet representative body, the BVRLA, was a tad more cautious, especially around taxation, with Chief Exec Gerry Keaney saying: “Any radical change will need a great deal of consideration and forward planning. Policymakers must start conversations now and the fleet industry must have a seat at the table in these discussions. To support a speedy and sustainable shift to zero emission road transport, it is essential to have alignment between fiscal and environmental policy.”
EV-specific companies and bodies were obviously happy. Gill Nowell, Director of the Electric Vehicle Association, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and judging by the results of our survey of electric vehicle drivers that we ran in the summer, and through our engagement with both prospective and current EV drivers, so too does the EV community in England.”
Volta Trucks CEO, Rob Fowler, spoke about the need to consider commercials, too: “Commercial vehicles form the lifeblood of city centre commerce, so society needs goods vehicles that are zero emissions. I therefore call on the UK Government to apply the same levels of decarbonisation ambition for commercial vehicles as has been announced today with passenger cars and vans.”
On the charging and EV energy supply side, Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Energy recommended making the switch now to get ahead of the game: “Drivers don’t have to wait until 2030 to go electric – the cars, the charge points, and the affordable prices are here today. By switching now, drivers can save thousands in fuel, tax and maintenance costs, and make the most of generous government incentives that won’t be around forever, not to mention feel good about their impact on the planet.”
Ian Johnston, CEO of Osprey Charging, recognised the part the private industry has to play: “The spotlight is now on industry and government to ensure that the necessary charging infrastructure is in place to make the switch to electric as frictionless as possible for motorists. The private sector is deploying a vast network of reliable and accessible public charging points and the government must also step up action to fund infrastructure in rural areas and create an attractive trading environment for EV supply.”
In short, there are two main challenges; price and infrastructure. The RAC's Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes, said in his reaction: “We believe many more rapid charging devices are needed. While many people, especially those with off-street parking, will charge their vehicles overnight at home, this won’t be possible for everyone so access to a reliable national charging network is vital to make the process of recharging simple and convenient.
“...Prices will have to come down dramatically in order to make them a realistic option for more people and spark take-up quickly.”
The RAC also raises the fact that in the immediate term the government will need to work on incentivising buyers to go electric, as well as working out how to offset the £28bn in treasury revenue from the sales of petrol and diesel fuels. Our assumption here is that smart road pricing will be the way forward.
On the sales side of things, Ian Plummer, Director at Auto Trader, envisions issues around supply and demand: “In order to meet the government’s new ban of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the sale of EVs must overtake the sale of traditional ICE 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.”
He also pointed out the spectre of Brexit hanging over the industry: “It’s not just consumer demand we have to contend with. Without an EU trade deal in place, the UK won’t be considered a viable market for manufacturers to send new EV stock to. Now is the time for all industry stakeholders to come together so that we can make meaningful change in the adoption of EVs, otherwise the government’s ambitious target remains far out of reach.”
Alongside the headline-grabbing news about new petrol and diesel sales, the PM announced a raft of measures to support a green economy. These were:
We see this as a very positive move and one which may seem strewn with hurdles, but is actually a lot more achievable than many will have you believe. Ten years ago, 12kW was about as fast as charging got. EVs could barely crack 100 miles on a charge and there were dozens, rather than thousands of public chargers. EV technology is unrecognisable compared to ten years ago; think about where it'll be in another ten years. Add to that the PM's announcement is expected to include a raft of zero-carbon energy generation schemes and things look even more positive.
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