UK and France to end diesel, petrol car sales by 2040

The UK will end sales of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040, the government has said in response to the threat to public health from rising levels of NOx emissions. The pledge follows a similar move in France and is part of the UK government’s clean air plan, which it was required to bring forward after a legal challenge by NGO Client Earth.

The government said that the move to electric, which can include hybrid vehicles, was necessary because of the poor air quality in cities which costs up to £2.7 billion (€3 billion) annually in lost productivity alone. The government plan provides a £255m fund to help local councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles, but it does not mandate local or city bans on diesel vehicles although these are still possible.

Earlier this month France announced it will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of its plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate agreement. Ecology minister Nicolas Hulot said it would be a ‘tough’ objective for carmakers but that his country’s industry was in a position to make the transition. ‘Our makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise ... which is also a public health issue.’

That announcement came just a day after Volvo said it would only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards. The decision was widely seen as heralding the end of the internal combustion engine although the Volvo announcement includes mild hybrid technologies largely driven by an internal combustion engines. Volvo said that between 2019 and 2021 it will introduce five fully electric models, and switch the rest of its conventional petrol and diesel range to hybrid engines.

Volvo is the first major carmaker to announce such a step – although others are moving in a similar direction. The announcement is seen as strongly linked to China’s planned zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate. China is repeating California’s ZEV mandate, which requires that an increasing percentage of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids be put on the road each year. Volvo has said it will work more closely with other carmakers owned by its parent company to cut the cost of developing electric vehicles. Volvo is owned by Chinese carmaker Geely Auto.

T&E’s clean vehicles director, Greg Archer, said: ‘Despite Volvo’s move, and the welcome announcements in London and Paris, most of Europe’s car industry remains behind the curve with the electric revolution. More carmakers here need to invest now or risk being left behind by their Asian and American counterparts.’