Sales of petrol and diesel vehicles could be phased-out by 2035 in new plans revealed by transport secretary Grant Shapps.
The intent to examine the phase-out date was announced yesterday (30 September) by Shapps at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
“If we’re to become the world-leader in green technology, we must always be looking to expand our ambitions.
“I’d therefore like to see government look again at the 2040 target, and thoroughly explore the case for bringing this date forward,” Shapps said.
The transport secretary continued to say the government “should aim” for a new date of 2035 and will need to “test the arguments” and work with the industry to work out how to proceed.
This is a date pushed for by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its net zero report, which recommended a ban of 2035 or earlier.
But Jillian Anable, co-director of the UK Energy Research Centre, University of Leeds, said the phase-out must be brought forward to at least 2032 if the transport sector is to contribute to emissions reductions.
Anable went on to say, however, that even a 2032 ban would be "nowhere near enough".
“This phase out must include plug-in hybrid vehicles as their on-road emissions depend on how many miles are driven on the battery as opposed to the fuel tank.”
A 2032 date has also been recommended by one of the government’s own select committees. In October 2018, the BEIS select committee suggested a date of 2032, in line with Scotland’s phase-out.
And in August, the Science and Technology select committee recommended a date of 2035 to the government.
Others in Westminster have also been calling for an earlier date, with the Conservative Environmental Network (CEN), an independent forum, MP caucus and membership organisation for conservative MPs supportive of decarbonisation, releasing a manifesto recommending a date change to 2035.
Daniel Brown, policy manager at the Renewable Energy Association, said that whilst an announcement of a 2035 date would bring the UK “closer in line with what the CCC says needs to happen”, there also needs to be “greater policy clarity” in the short to medium term.
“For consumers of the 2020s there are issues around taxation, manufacturing, grant levels, vehicle supply, and charging infrastructure deployment that all need to be addressed.
“It’s imperative that the government produces credible policy that ensures we keep on track with our legally-binding carbon budgets,” Brown continued.
The Aldersgate Group, a collection of some of the UK’s largest businesses, has also previously recommended a date of 2030 for the phase-out in a manifesto calling on the government to update the Clean Growth Strategy.
The new proposal of 2035 from Shapps would place the UK ahead of France, which currently shares the UK’s 2040 target. Norway would still claim the title for the first to phase out conventional vehicles, however, with a date of 2025.
Ian Johnston, CEO of EV charging network operator Engenie, said to enable a ban by 2035, the government first needs to make the UK an “attractive trading environment for EV manufacturers”.
“Huge private investment in charging infrastructure is already well underway, so once the government gets up to speed many of the chargers will already be deployed to ensure a smooth transition.”
However, an earlier date is not the only recommendation being called for across the industry. As it currently stands, only petrol and diesel vehicles are included in the ban. However, UKERC and the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions have both issued calls for hybrid electric vehicles to also be included so that only battery electric vehicles are permitted to be sold after the phase-out.
The UKERC’s report suggested that the aims of Road to Zero can only be met if hybrids are included in the ban and modelled scenarios where hybrids and plug-in hybrids were banned by 2030, which resulted in the largest and earliest reductions on emissions.
Christian Brand, co-director of the UKERC, University of Oxford, said in response to the announcement that the UK won’t get “anywhere near net zero” if conventional fuelled vehicles aren’t tackled, and Brand reiterated the UKERC’s recommendation of a 2030 ban that includes hybrids.