UK races to phase out cars and vans with engines

The British government is expected to shortly announce an end to sales of petrol and diesel cars – and it could be as early as 2030. T&E says a UK phase-out date in the early 2030s is achievable, as long as the government commits to enforcement measures to make it a reality and not just an aspiration.

With ‘Brexit’ due for completion on 31 December, the UK is now able to end the sale of cars with engines. But its legislation replacing EU car CO2 regulations is weaker than current EU rules and requires fewer electric cars to be sold in the UK next year. A phase-out by the early 2030s will require the UK to move much faster than existing EU regulations, for example by requiring sales of zero-emission cars to be 40-50% of the market by 2025. It is currently on course for 15% by 2025.

The announcement of an early end to sales of oil-fuelled cars is one of the proposals to be detailed in a speech expected in early November by the UK prime minister Boris Johnson on green growth opportunities. He wants the UK to have the biggest market for electric cars in Europe.

T&E’s UK director Greg Archer said: ‘For months it has looked like the UK’s departure from the EU would leave it with no regulations on carmakers to reduce CO2 emissions, which would have dried up the supply of electric cars and made the UK a dumping ground for gas guzzlers. Now there is at least some draft legislation with parliamentary time for it to become law by 1 January, but it is 20% weaker than the EU’s scheme. 

‘If Johnson is serious about ending sales of cars with engines, he also needs to announce a commitment to ensure the target is met. This requires introducing more effective legislation to encourage increasing sales of zero-emission cars, reform car taxes, and improve the usability of the UK’s charging network.’

T&E is calling for a phase-out of combustion vehicle sales in the whole of the EU by 2035, at the latest, and has been joined by Nissan, Renault and other UK companies in advocating for policies to deliver a rapid shift in the UK. It also supports a single end date for sales of oil-fuelled cars and vans, and plug-in hybrids.

Archer added: ‘The government is running scared of the federation representing British carmakers, particularly fierce lobbying by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). But JLR doesn’t speak for many carmakers, and it is failing so badly to reduce emissions that it has set-aside €101 million to pay anticipated fines for failing to meet CO2 limits for 2020 – despite having a much more lenient target than other carmakers. The government needs to listen to the modern voice of the car industry, not the dinosaurs.’