According to widespread reports in the press, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to move the ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-engined cars from the old cut-off from 2035 to 2030. That’s following a move back in February, when it moved from the previous goalpost of 2040.
So, all of a sudden it looks like the end of new petrol and diesel-engined cars is looming into view rather sooner than we all thought when this concept was first floated not that long ago. Just to put this deadline into perspective, if we’re talking 1 January 2030, that’s a little over nine years away.
Go backwards the same amount of time and David Cameron was Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was Deputy Prime Minister and Ed Milliband was the Leader of the Opposition. On AROnline we were reporting on MG Motor UK’s disastrous PR and marketing in the wake of the launch of the MG6. Mike owned a Saab 9-3 and was fixing it, while I was commenting on how we were in a new golden age of Bangernomics – not that long ago, then.
It’s close, very close
And that’s why the end of new petrol and diesel-powered cars sales in the UK now seems very close, if the Government goes down this road. Don’t think for a moment, it’s not going to happen – I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the Labour Party is going to win the next General Election, and it’s not exactly been known for being the driver’s friend, despite us once having a Deputy Prime Minister who was famous for having ‘two Jags’…
It’s not as if we don’t need drastic action to take place, and take place now. Climate change is accelerating and, if it goes on unabated, we’re going to be suffering the effects of an environmental emergency the likes of which we’ve never known before within 50 years, possibly sooner. Some would say that this is possibly too little, too late, but the problem is that, as a society, we’re addicted to fossil fuels, and weaning us off is going to be tough.
The Government hopes that banning the sale of Internal Combustion Engined (ICE) cars will accelerate the UK’s aim to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050. Will we be successful? I hope so. I know we’re all doing our bit now, and will continue to do more – but, according to EnvironmentalProtection UK, all road transport still contributes 22% of the UK’s total CO2 output, so this is a necessary move.
There’s a long way to go
There are lots of unanswered questions. Electric cars currently take a little over 2% of the UK market, and that figure is growing rapidly. Plug-in hybrids take another 2%, and are also on the rise – so, right now, a little less than 5% of all new cars are capable of running on electricity only for a significant distance. The charging infrastructure isn’t in bad shape, although the standard of some of the public chargers leaves a lot to be desired. So we have some way to go.
The main balancing act for legislators is how to cater for those beyond 2030 running around in their petrol and diesel-powered cars. And this is the bit that bothers me. Okay, so electric cars will be cheaper and more widespread on the used car market by 2030, but they’re still highly inconvenient for many people and way more expensive than their ICE counterparts – those in towns and cities who aren’t able to fit home chargers for a start. Let’s not even mention those who live in rural areas for whom public charging is difficult.
Nine years from now, will the mainstream users of ICE-powered cars be legislated out of them prematurely, and will they be made unfeasibly expensive to run through Vehicle Excise Duty and increasing fuel duty? Will we be forced out of the towns and cities, and kettled into some kind of classic car mileage cap? Will classic cars be exempted? When will we know?
I can’t pretend to feel reassured that our Government – any Government – is going to have this planned with every contingency catered for. One only needs to view what’s happening now to be filled with fear. When will we get a clear plan? Will there actually be one? I don’t think so for a moment. All I am confident about is that it’s good news for the climate and city and town centres – but it’s probably going to be all stick and no carrot for car owners who won’t – or can’t – go to electric power.
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