In a groundbreaking move that sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and environmental circles alike, the UK government announced a significant extension to the sale of petrol and diesel cars until 2035. This decision marks a substantial shift in the timeline for phasing out traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans, which had previously been set for 2030.
The official confirmation of this decision came yesterday, with the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivering a speech in which he explained the decision to U-turn on the initial plan of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. He argued that this shift was spurred by several factors, including concerns about the pace of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure development, potential job losses in the automotive industry, and the need to ensure a smooth transition for consumers.
One of the key takeaways from this announcement is the acknowledgment of the importance of a gradual transition. While the UK government remains committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, they say they recognise that a longer timeline may be necessary to accommodate the needs of various stakeholders.
The delay will bring the UK in line with the European Union's plan to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2035.
Despite the change, the Prime Minister said that he still expects the "vast majority" of cars sold by 2030 to be electric, because "the costs are reducing, the range is improving, the charging infrastructure is growing. People are already choosing electric vehicles to such an extent that we're registering a new one every 60 seconds,” he said. “But I also think that at least for now, it should be you, the consumer that makes that choice, not government forcing you to do it.”
The government also confirmed that under the revised plan all hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars would also be banned from 2035, meaning that from 2035 only fully electric cars and commercial vans can be sold from new.
One of the primary reasons cited for extending the deadline is the need for further investment in EV infrastructure. The government argued that a rapid transition to electric vehicles would have placed enormous pressure on the charging network, potentially leading to range anxiety for consumers. By extending the deadline to 2035, the government aims to give businesses and local authorities the necessary time to develop a robust charging infrastructure across the country.
This additional time should also facilitate the development of more advanced EV technologies, potentially making electric vehicles more accessible and affordable for a wider range of consumers, including significantly improved EV driving ranges and faster charging solutions.
Another significant concern that prompted the extension of the deadline is the potential impact on employment within the automotive industry. The UK has a proud tradition of automobile manufacturing, and a hasty transition could have resulted in substantial job losses. By allowing an extra five years, the government aims to mitigate these concerns and ensure that the industry has the opportunity to adapt and retrain its workforce.
Additionally, the extended timeline provides a chance for manufacturers to adjust their production lines and supply chains to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles. This may lead to an overall boost in the British economy and the automotive sector's sustainability.
It’s important to remember that only brand new car and van sales will be affected by the ban, so consumers will still be able to buy and sell second-hand vehicles powered by petrol or diesel after 2035, and purchase the fuel for them.