The UK is to ban the sale of petrol and diesel engines by 2040, in a move that the Government hopes will allow it to meet air quality targets, which cities in the country have exceeded by high levels for a number of years.
Following a high court loss, the UK Government was forced to publish plans to tackle air quality and believes that banning sales would be better than introducing a diesel scrappage scheme, which was originally on the cards. In addition, there will be an investment of £255 million for local councils to tackle air pollution.
The announcement will likely see a further decline in diesel sales in the UK, while petrol vehicle sales may also fall as drivers start to look towards an electric future. Already in the first half of 2017, diesel sales are down by 10% compared to the same period in 2016. Petrol sales are up by 5% over the same period, while sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, which includes petrol and diesel hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electrics, were up by 30%.
Speaking about the announcement, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, comments, ‘The UK government’s ambition for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040 is already known. Industry is working with government to ensure that the right consumer incentives, policies, and infrastructure is in place to drive growth in the still very early market for ULEVs in the UK. However, much depends on the cost of these new technologies and how willing consumers are to adopt battery, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen cars. Currently demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concern over affordability, range and charging points. Outright bans risk undermining the current market for new cars and our sector which supports over 800,000 jobs across the UK so the industry instead wants a positive approach which gives consumers incentives to purchase these cars. We could undermine the UK’s successful automotive sector if we don’t allow enough time for the industry to adjust.’
When it comes to the parts and servicing market, there are also concerns that the sector is not ready and will not be in a position to cope with the expected increase in sales over the next few years.
Steve Nash, Chief Executive at the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) adds: ‘The announcement shows the government are all stick and no carrot – much more needs to be done if the UK is to realise the £51 billion contribution from new vehicle technologies that the government is pursuing by 2030. That is contingent upon the UK being a leading player, but we must start with the basics by ensuring that we have the infrastructure and skills base to support motorists making an easy transition from petrol and diesel to electric and hybrid. A greater and more rapid investment in the charging infrastructure and financial support to help those working in the service and repair sector, most particularly the independent operators, to gain the skills to work on the new technologies.
‘The IMI is continuing its campaign for the introduction of a licensing scheme for those working on the high voltage vehicles, and we’ve asked the government to contribute £30 million to support the uptake of the necessary training.’
There are also concerns that the UK EV infrastructure will not be able to cope, with investment required in charging capabilities. Meanwhile, the UK Government is focusing on making the UK a development hub for electric and autonomous vehicle technologies. Car manufacturers are also embracing a battery powered future, with Swedish carmaker Volvo committing to producing only electric and hybrid vehicles.