The UK Government have announced that the sale of cars with petrol or diesel engines may continue up to 2035, under new plans set out as part of climate change policies.
Previously the ban was set to come as early as 2030, although there were some minor exceptions with cars capable of zero emissions still eligible for production past that date. Rishi Sunak has now pushed that date back to 2035, which still falls in line with the plan to be net zero on carbon emissions by 2050.
In a statement released yesterday the Prime Minister said "we're working hard to make the UK a world leader" in electric vehicles, citing that "we've already attracted billions of new investment."
He added: "I expect by 2030 the vast majority of cars sold will be electric, because the costs are reducing, the range is improving, the charging infrastructure is growing. I also think, at least for now, it should be you that makes that choice, not the government forcing you to do it. Because the upfront cost is high. We've got further to go to get the charging infrastructure in place.
"So to give us more time to prepare we're going to ease the transition to electric vehicles. You'll still be able to buy a combustion engine vehicle until 2035."
In extending the deadline he has taken pressure off of car manufacturers who were speeding through technology to be ahead of the game, or at least involved in the game when it comes to producing solely electric cars. However car manufacturers may also see this as a kick in the teeth, having invested billions in advancing technology to meet the demand which was just seven years away at the time of writing. The change of date brings the UK in line with the European Union and Canada.
He also confirmed that second hand cars with combustion engines could continue to be sold well past the deadline, which had always been the case with the previous 2030 arrangement.
The delay whilst unexpected has come with the guarantee from Kemi Badenoch (Business and Trade secretary) that other schemes in place to encourage the uptake of electric cars would remain in place, including the "ZEV" Mandate that requires car manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of electric cars.
Kemi reported to the BBC "a mandate in place that hopes by 2030 80% of vehicles will be electric vehicles."
Sunak went onto discuss the 2050 Net Zero commitment by adding "The test should be: do we have the fairest credible path to reach net zero by 2050 in a way that brings people with us? Since I've been prime minister I've examined our [previous] plans and I don't think they meet that test." But he added that he was "unequivocal" that the UK would meet all its international climate target commitments.
Electric car sales have risen sharply since the announcement of the ban, partly driven by government grants and the steep rise in fuel costs post covid. In August 2023 electric cars accounted for around twenty percent of all new cars sold. Here at Ready2Lease it was closer to 30%, which is not uncommon when it comes to leasing a new car. Part of this is driven by the reluctance to buy an electric car, with residual values being unpredictable and recently performing very poorly, which is known all too well by Tesla owners who saw the cost of new models slashed by £5,000 earlier this year, sending their older models into equity meltdown.
(Pictured, Peugeot e-208)
How has the 2035 ICE ban delay been received by the motor industry?
Ready2Lease Owner Geoff Hornsby: I think it was inevitable, many drivers still feel at ease with a petrol engine and have no desire to move away to electric, so the extension is going to give those drivers peace of mind they have the freedom for a little longer.
Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed said that Labour was committed to keeping the ban to 2030 and that Rishi Sunak had "sold out the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century" for Britain to take the lead in the green economy.
Lisa Brankin, Chair of Ford UK Said "We need policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong. Infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost of living is high."
Jaguar Landrover (JLR), who are the UK's biggest manufacturer of passenger cars seemed less concerned, but called the move pragmatic and that they were to commited to be net zero by 2039.
SMMT Head (Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders) Mike Hawes said "To make this a reality consumers must want to make the switch, which requires from government a clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety. Confusion and uncertainty will only hold them back."
Does the UK Government have any conviction when setting these dates or are they purely marks in the sand?
In the realm of government policies, the 2030 ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the UK has been subject to scrutiny and uncertainty. This is not the first instance where the government has seemed to waver in its commitment to this ban, and doubts about its implementation emerged following the Uxbridge by-election. In this election, opposition to the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone was considered pivotal to a Conservative victory.
As recently as July, Michael Gove, a prominent cabinet member, staunchly denied any intentions to alter the planned ICE ban, emphasizing that "the policy remains unchanged." He reiterated the government's dedication to ensuring that by 2030, there will be no new petrol or diesel cars available for sale. While acknowledging the existence of voices seeking policy adjustments, Gove affirmed the government's unwavering commitment to the 2030 ban.
However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has previously hinted at the need for changes in climate change-related policies that he deems to unfairly burden the public. In July, he emphasized that the UK would make progress toward achieving net-zero emissions but in a "proportionate and pragmatic manner" that does not unnecessarily burden people with additional hassles and costs. He stated that this approach aligns with his goals and intentions.
Sunak's comments in July were made in response to calls from some right-wing Conservative MPs for a revaluation of certain green policies. In his response, Sunak emphasized his stand for the British people, acknowledging the impact of high inflation on households and families' expenses and expressing his desire to avoid exacerbating these challenges.
The ICE ban, considered one of the most significant policy shifts in the automotive industry, implies that only hybrid and electric vehicles will be available for sale from 2030, with sales restricted to electric vehicles (EVs) only starting in 2035. This transition aligns with the policies adopted by the European Union as well.
When questioned about his commitment to the ICE ban, which was accelerated from 2040 to 2030 as part of efforts to expedite the government's 2050 net-zero emissions target, Sunak affirmed the importance of net-zero goals. He assured that progress would continue toward achieving these ambitions and emphasized the need to bolster energy security.
However, he also advocated for exploring alternative approaches. Sunak emphasized the significance of investing more in domestically sourced energy, whether through nuclear power or offshore wind. This, he believes, is in line with the public's expectations and a commitment he intends to uphold.
In July, the Prime Minister made these comments shortly after Tata, the owners of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), confirmed plans to construct a £4 billion battery factory in Somerset. Speaking to Autocar, JLR's CEO, Adrian Mardell, expressed confidence that a potential change in the 2030 policy would not significantly impact JLR's strategy. He noted that the company's plans had been established over two years ago and would remain unchanged, irrespective of ongoing discussions regarding the 2030 target."
"Aston Martin Ban Exemption"
Sunak is also reported by the Times to be considering some exclusions to the policy, which would allow brands such as Aston Martin who makes less than 1,000 car per year, to be excluded. Low volume manufacturers will still be expected to make the switch eventually, but will be given more time and flexibility to catch up with the mass producers of the motor industry.