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New petrol and diesel cars to be banned from 2040

Government announces dramatic new plans to improve UK air quality

Charging electric car

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The sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK will be banned from 2040, under the government’s Clean Air Strategy announced 26 July.

The ambitious long-term plan is part of the government’s pledge “to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than when we inherited it”. Under the scheme, traditional cars and vans will be gradually phased out in favour of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Sales of alternative fuel vehicles have grown in the UK recent years, but they remain far from a mainstream option. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, electric vehicles accounted for just 1.8% of all new car registrations in June 2017, while hybrid vehicles made up 2.6% of the market in the same month.

Some manufacturers have already promised to make the switch to cleaner vehicles. Volvo recently announced that all its new cars will be partially or completely battery powered by 2019. BMW has also pledged to offer full-electric and plug-in hybrid drivetrain options for all its models.

Shorter-term plans

While the 2040 death knell for traditionally fuelled vehicles is still more than two decades away, the new publication announced some faster-moving changes.

The government plans to publish a wider Clean Air Strategy next year setting out how it will meet new emissions targets by 2020 and 2030. Local authorities will be required to set out initial Clean Air Plans in the next 8 months, with a deadline of March 2018.

The recent publication is part of a wider £2.7bn scheme to improve air quality and reduce roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. The government has pledged £1bn to encourage uptake of ultra low emission vehicles in advance of the 2040 switchover, with other parts of the budget allocated to reducing emissions from buses, encouraging cycling and walking, and improving the charging infrastructure for electric cars.

The government plans to issue a further consultation in autumn which will consider further actions, including the diesel scrappage scheme which was floated earlier this year. However, the scheme suggested in earlier drafts of the Clean Air Plan was dismissed as ‘toothless’ by critics, and the government itself stated in the latest document that previous scrappage schemes were poor value for money.

Getting all drivers on-board

Commenting on today’s publication, Kasey Cassells, motor insurance expert at uSwitch.com, said: “This is a positive move from the government and shows that there is a real commitment to tackling air quality across the UK. Electric and hybrid cars have been part of our driving landscape for a number of years now, but there is still resistance to the adoption of these cleaner vehicles, mainly due to associated costs and the lack of availability of public charging points.

“To ensure all drivers get on-board it is important that the price point to get on board this new technology is considerably reduced. Motorists will resist a change being foisted upon them unless they can clearly see the benefit to them and their wallets. The scale of the challenge can be seen in the latest new vehicle registration figures, with electric cars accounting for fewer than 2%.

“With the 2040 deadline in place, the challenge is now to ensure that the whole country is taken on the journey to cleaner air and that significant investment is made in the UK’s electric vehicle infrastructure to ensure that no drivers are left in the slow lane.”

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