New conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from sale in the UK from 2030 – here’s everything you need to know
All new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans are set to be banned from sale in the UK in 2030. New hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be given a stay of execution until 2035, on the condition they are capable of covering a "significant distance" – a term which the Government has yet to define – in zero-emission mode.
After 2035, the only new cars and vans that can be sold will be pure electric ones, plus any hydrogen-powered cars, that may exist at that point. Second-hand cars will be unaffected by the ICE (internal combustion engine) ban. Petrol and diesel cars, plus conventional hybrids without "significant" zero-emission capability, will still be bought and sold on the used car market after 2030 and 2035.
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The EU has announced its plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035, although smaller manufacturers are set to be given an exemption and the EU plans to provide further exemptions for internal combustion engined cars powered exclusively by efuels. While there were rumours that the UK Government might entertain a similar exemption for cars running on synthetic efuels, confirmation has since come that it has no plans to do so.
Government help for the electric car transition
To help facilitate the transition away from fossil-fuel cars in the UK, £1.3 billion of investment was announced in 2020 for EV chargepoints for homes, streets and motorways across England. A further £582 million was set aside for grants to help people and businesses into EVs and PHEVs. The Government is also investing in battery development and mass production, while more money was earmarked for nuclear power plants, partly to help meet the demand for electricity the growing number of EVs will bring.
On announcing the measures, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “My Ten Point Plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050.
“Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.”
Buyers are undoubtedly turning to alternatively fuelled cars in great numbers, with 23 per cent of new registrations being EVs and PHEVs in 2022. Nonetheless, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders previously called the acceleration of the original 2040 ban “extremely concerning”, adding that “with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment.”
More recently, UK car industry figures have expressed their concerns over the 2030 deadline and the new Euro 7 emissions regulations for petrol and diesel cars. Meanwhile, the increasing cost of electricity has made the switch to EVs less attractive than it once was for budget-minded consumers.
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Another factor that comes into play in the UK is the advent of clean-air zones. The most notable is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, which requires owners of pre-Euro 4 petrol and pre-Euro 6 diesel cars to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to drive in the capital, that's on top of the congestion charge for driving into central london.
ULEZ currently covers a large area of London within the North and South Circular roads. It’s due to expand across the entire Greater London Authority area on 29 August 2023, but this move is being met with fierce resistance from national and local politicians, campaigners and the public.
Background to the petrol and diesel ban: how we get to 2030
A ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars was first announced by then-environment secretary, Michael Gove, in 2017. Back then, the date was set for 2040 and, after several clarifications, it emerged any new car with any kind of internal combustion engine would be banned from sale by that date.
The shifting sands of future policy saw a consultation launched in 2020 to investigate if a ban in 2035, "or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible” should be introduced, with hybrids included in the proposals. Both 2035 and an earlier date were clearly been deemed 'feasible' by the Government following that review and the 2030 date was announced in 2020, with some wiggle room for plug-in hybrids with 'significant' electric range.
There are approximately 33 million cars on the road in the UK, based on 2021 data. Of these, roughly 441,000 are electric cars and a further 339,000 are plug-in hybrids. In the first quarter of 2022, the UK registered 252,000 new petrol and diesel cars, 81,000 hybrid cars, 30,000 plug-in hybrid cars and 64,000 pure electric cars. Electric car registrations were up 102% on the previous year while new petrol and diesel car registrations were down 11% and 52% respectively.
The ban on petrol and diesel cars is part of a wider £12 billion ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ that the Government hopes will create 250,000 jobs as the country invests more in battery technology, carbon capture, and green energy. The UK’s “industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, Scotland and Wales”, will be key to the coming changes, with 50,000 jobs, and £1 billion of investment in “areas such as the Humber, Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth and Port Talbot” alone.
Your petrol and diesel ban questions answered
What should I do about the ban?
It’s a tricky time for consumers to make decisions about their car ownership situation. Not only are there the aforementioned changes to what cars are going to be available to buy new in the coming years, but other factors – including the cost of living crisis, supply-chain issues and inflated prices – also come into play.
Making the leap to an electric car will certainly make sense for some drivers. If you can afford to pay the premium and don’t travel longer distances on a regular basis, then there is a great range of highly desirable options for you to choose from. Beneficial Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax rates haven’t been snuffed out quite yet, and the same goes for exemption to the London congestion charge – although these things will change in 2025.
Buying a new petrol or diesel car while you still have the chance to do so will appeal to many. And if you fit into this category, the pages that follow should help you on that journey. A brand-new ICE car will cost less than its electric equivalent, plus you won’t have to worry about the charging infrastructure, as you would with an electric vehicle, or clean-air zones as you might with an older car.
Of course, many of us don’t have the budget for a new car. It might be that you want to keep your old one going, but are worried about being affected by a clean-air zone. If so, the second-hand market is an option. Prices are still inflated, but follow the advice in our used-car buying pages and at autoexpress.co.uk and we’ll help you get a good deal.
Can I still drive a petrol and diesel car after 2030, and a hybrid with a "significant" zero emission range after 2035?
Yes. The bans on these dates only apply to sales of new cars, and there are no current plans to outlaw the use or sale of second-hand cars based on these criteria.
Electric cars are still too expensive, though. Will anything be done to bring prices down?
Electric cars are significantly more expensive than conventional ones at present, a situation that wasn't helped by the end of the UK plug-in car grant, but the difference is narrowing. It can be difficult for manufacturers to turn a profit on some EVs but Looking forwards to the next decade, it’s possible that increased manufacturing volumes and economies of scale will see this improve and prices come down.
I don’t have off-street parking. How will I charge an electric car?
A number of solutions exist or are in development for this. Chargers that pop out from the kerb and lamp post chargers are two such options. Furthermore, as the number of electric vehicles in the country increases, so to will charging stations. Expect these to become more commonplace at supermarkets, pubs and restaurants, cinemas, leisure centres, and other locations over the next decade.
A change of mindset will also be required, with EV users highlighting the approach people take to charging their smartphones as being similar to topping up EVs: rather than always doing big overnight charges, for example, regular top-ups will keep people’s cars moving.
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I cover above average mileages. Will my journeys take longer?
The average UK motorist drives around 21 miles a day, but many people do more. EV ranges are commonly increasing, however, with 200-300 miles from a single charge a realistic figure for many modern electric cars. Journeys of such length would typically bring with them pit-stops at motorway services, where fast charging can add a meaningful amount of range in as little as 30 minutes, and a £1.3 billion fund helping make such chargers more plentiful.
I’m a van driver. How will this affect me?
Vans, also known as light commercial vehicles, are also affected by the 2030 and 2035 bans. Just as EV technology has developed rapidly for cars, so has it for vans. The new Ford E-Transit, for example, has a range of 217 miles, the same cargo capacity as its diesel counterpart, and is due for release in 2022. Expect more such vehicles over the next decade and, while electric vans are likely to be more expensive to buy than diesel models, running costs can be lower thanks to the lack of engines to service, and diesel tanks to fill up.
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What about National Grid? Can the UK’s electricity supply cope with all these extra EVs?
Indications are that this will not be a problem. There are around 30 million petrol and diesel cars in the UK, but these will not be replaced overnight, and the phase-in of EVs will be gradual. Assuming new-car sales figures continue at their current pace of roughly two million a year, it’ll be 15 years before the UK’s petrol and diesel cars are replaced.
National Grid has previously stated that “enough capacity exists” for the transition to EVs, while its modelling predicts that even if all the UK’s cars became electric overnight, demand would only increase by 10 per cent.
Furthermore, smart charging, where EVs communicate with the electricity network and vice versa, will see charging take place during times of off-peak demand for many drivers. Energy firms are trying to get the right, however, to switch off charging EVs if the network can’t cope.
What about mining materials such as cobalt and lithium? Aren’t there environmental concerns and worries over working conditions related to battery materials?
Yes, there are. An Auto Express investigation from 2018 revealed a number of manufacturers make cars with batteries containing cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where unlicensed mines and child workers both exist.
Manufacturers are working to tackle this issue, though, with Volvo using blockchain technology to track the provenance of battery materials, and Tesla greatly reducing the amount of cobalt in its batteries, for example.
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2030 ICE ban: industry reaction
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said the UK car industry shares the "government’s ambition for leadership in decarbonising road transport and are committed to the journey. 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."
Hawes said SMMT was pleased "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’s needed."
He warned, however, that EV affordability, plus the ability for electric cars to "recharge as easily" conventional cars can refuel, would be critical.
Edmund King, president of the AA, called the 2030 ban “incredibly ambitious”, but said the transition to EVs was “welcome.” King added: “Consistently, the barriers to EV ownership are: the initial cost of the car and availability, perceived single-charge range anxiety and charging infrastructure – particularly for the third of drivers without off-street parking. If we can tackle these issues with considerable investment and focus, the electric revolution could flourish.”
Calling the concession to plug-in hybrids “welcome”, King said: “investing heavily in the national charging network, battery production and providing incentives will help.”
Luxury car brand Bentley recently announced its intention to become an electric-only manufacturer by 2030. Its chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark welcomed the "clarity" brought by the Government's announcement, as well as the recognition of the "key role" PHEVs can play in "immediate and significant CO2 reductions".
He added: "We also acknowledge the Government’s new ambitious yet necessary targets and timelines, and the focus now needs to shift on to creating and implementing a cross-industry plan to bring infrastructure and customers along on this important journey."
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