18 November 2020
The UK government is bringing forward its ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales by five years, meaning manufacturers will have to phase the technology out by 2030.
The ban was initially intended to come into effect by 2040, before being brought forward to 2035. However, as part of a 10-point ‘green-recovery’ plan published by the government, in an effort to lower air pollution, the decision has been made to fast-track the regulations.
Recognising that more needs to be done with the UK’s electrically chargeable vehicle (EV) infrastructure, new hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models can be sold until 2035. After that, only zero-emission vehicles, including battery-electric (BEV) and hydrogen models can be sold new from dealerships.
In order to support the transition, £1.3 billion (€1.4 billion) has been allocated to the rollout of charging points in homes, streets and on motorways across the country. In addition, £582 million will be spent on grants for those buying zero- or ultra-low emission vehicles to incentivise more people to make the transition. Nearly £500 million will be spent over the next four years on the development and mass-scale production of EV batteries.
The government also announced an investment in hydrogen. Although no mention was made of the transport sector in these plans, £240 million will be spent on new hydrogen production facilities in the UK, which will likely benefit the automotive industry as it looks into the development of fuel-cell vehicles.
‘Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, I have not lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up across the country,’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented. ‘My 10-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net-zero by 2050.’
The fast-tracking of the petrol and diesel ban comes at a time when the automotive industry is still reliant on sales of internal combustion engines. So far this year, 1,384,601 vehicles have been sold in the UK, of which just 75,946 are BEVs, representing a market share of 5.5%. Sales of BEVs are up 168.7% so far this year, but more needs to be done to ensure consumers are confident in the technology.
‘We share government’s ambition for leadership in decarbonising road transport and are committed to the journey,’ said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the UK’s automotive body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). ‘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.
‘We are pleased, therefore, to see government accept the importance of hybrid transition technologies – which drivers are already embracing as they deliver carbon savings now – and commit to additional spending on purchase incentives. Investment in EV manufacturing capability is equally welcome as we want this transition to be ‘made in the UK’, but if we are to remain competitive – as an industry and a market – this is just the start of what is needed.
‘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. For that, we look to others to step up and match our commitment. We will now work with government on the detail of this plan, which must be delivered at a pace to achieve a rapid transition that benefits all of society, and safeguards UK automotive manufacturing and jobs.’
‘Access to charging points is now the biggest barrier to purchase of a BEV,’ said Autovista Group Daily Brief editor Phil Curry.
‘I welcome the government’s investment, which comes alongside a push for an increase in BEV charging points, there needs to be accessible for everyone to a charging point at home. At the same time, the fast-charge network also needs to be improved to prevent issues caused by faulty locations,’ he added
Another problem the government may face in persuading drivers to move to BEVs is the cost, and an issue around locally-sourced parts in vehicles following Brexit could see prices of such models increase.
Currently, a majority of battery components are sourced and assembled outside of the EU, and therefore battery cells would significantly count against British and European parts.
Manufacturers with plants based in the UK will need to prove that exported goods are actually British-made, with a specified threshold of British parts, expected to be around 50%. Under the terms of any type of trade deal with the EU, components from countries in the bloc will count as British, a move known as ‘cumulation’.
The government’s plans to create gigafactories in the UK will go some way to alleviating any price increases, but no timeline has yet been set.