The Government has announced a plan to ban sales of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2040 in the UK – a measure described that has been by critics as “weak”.
From 2040 onwards, a sales ban of petrol and diesel cars will come into effect in a bid to reduce air pollution in the UK. Hybrid cars, which combine electric power and a combustion engine, will be included.
The UK government also wants to introduce more ‘clean air zones’ (CAZ), but has all but ruled out the possibility of charging motorists extra for high polluting vehicles such as old diesels.
“I don’t believe that it is necessary to bring in charging, but we will work with local authorities in order to determine what the best approach is,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove in an interview on BBC Radio 4.
He described charging motorists as a “blunt instrument” and that he would “prefer to use a series of surgical interventions” because it would be “fairer to drivers and also likely to be more effective, more quickly in the areas that count”.
The Government has also seemingly canned the ‘scrappage scheme’ that would have seen a faster removal of the biggest emissions-makers. This has angered green groups and opposition politicians, who have labelled the combustion engine ban nothing more than a “smokescreen”.
Too little, too late?
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that action needs to be taken now: “Toxic air pollution is the biggest health crisis facing this generation and Londoners suffering now can’t afford to wait until 2040 for a Government ban on polluting cars,” he tweeted.
Greenpeace UK clean air campaigner Areeba Hamid echoed Khan’s sentiment. “We cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century for real action to tackle the public health emergency caused by air pollution.
“It means that children across the UK will continue to be exposed to harmful air pollution for years to come, with potentially irreversible impacts.”
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband went as far as calling the measures as “weak”. He tweeted: “Fear that new car petrol/diesel ban in 23 years time is smokescreen for weak measures to tackle 40,000 deaths a year from air pollution now.”
Besides a high death toll of around four million people worldwide, a report by the Government found that air pollution poses the biggest risk to public health and that it is likely costing the UK economy around £27.5billion in sickness and lost productivity.
The UK Government’s inability to take the issue seriously could lead to court action in the future. “We will be holding the Government to account on this,” said ClientEarth lawyer, Anna Heslop. “They have been in breach of those limits for seven years – and we will continue to do that.”
Air pollution: What is being done?
To help combat air pollution, local authorities will be allowed to dip into a £3billion fund, including £1.2billion for schemes that encourage cycling and walking £290million for low-emission taxis and £255million for updating the road infrastructure.
Another £100million will go towards the UK’s charging infrastructure, which will be needed to convince consumers to adopt electric cars, and buses will be retrofitted to be less polluting.
A number of car manufacturers are already adapting. Volvo’s entire model range, for instance, will feature some sort of electrification from 2019. VW announced plans for a 30 electric cars within the next decade.
Jaguar, meanwhile, is about to release its all-electric I-Pace and Tesla will be the first manufacturer to offer an affordable electric car that has a 200-mile range. The Model 3, as it is known, just rolled off the production line and into the hands of Tesla CEO and founder, Elon Musk.
Some experts have expressed fears over how the UK’s power network will be able to cope with a significant rise in the number of electric vehicles, which are commonly charged at home overnight like a smartphone.
Then there is the charging point infrastructure itself, which seems to have regressed in some areas and the fact that slower chargers will mean motorists have to stop for more than an hour at a time.
Speaking to Auto Express, charging point provider Chargemaster argues the UK has enough time. “Though funding from the Government is always welcome, the private sector is taking the lead here and we will be ready by 2040,” a spokesperson said.
It added that home charging is considerably more common than any other location: “We see around 100,000 home charging sessions per week, compared to 5,000 public charging sessions.”
Electric cars: The future?
Changing consumer habits will be a big task as range anxiety is an issue and even the biggest capacity Teslas require an element of planning for longer journeys, but making electric cars cheaper by reducing the cost of the battery technologies will prove as vital.
Then there is the fact electric cars are expensive to buy. A petrol and diesel car is substantially cheaper than an equivalent hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric car, even with the Government’s plug-in grant that was recently reduced and made more difficult to achieve.
Do you think the UK sales ban on petrol and diesel cars is feasible? We are unsure and part of the Government’s air pollution plan has an air of posturing about it. But if recent sales figures are anything to go by, consumers are already giving alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) a go.
Check out our round-up of the best electric cars on sale, just in case you want to be ahead of the curve or are suffering from a severe case of eco-guilt.