UK motorists have just 24 years remaining to buy petrol or diesel cars and vans, as the Government outlined anti-pollution plans that will outlaw fossil fuel versions of the vehicles by 2040.
The plans follow French President Francois Macron’s commitment to remove his country’s polluting vehicles in a similar timeframe.
The announcement comes amid a wave of commercial activity in the electric car market, with Volvo announcing this month it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards.
In July, BMW announced it would manufacture an electrically powered Mini in the UK.
The plans were outlined in the Air quality plan for nitrogen dioxide policy paper, published on July 26.
Responding to the plans, the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said it welcomed the policy as part of a number of “pragmatic steps” announced by Minister for the Environment Michael Gove.
The group, which represents UK independent fuel retailers, said the steps did not impose a blanket ban on diesel vehicles across cities and towns or introduce an unattractive diesel scrappage scheme.
PRA Chairman Brian Madderson also welcomed that the plan did not include “unfair penalties” on diesel drivers or apply to large vans, HGV’s, motorbikes, tractors and other off-the-road equipment.
However, he added: “We are cautious that the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 will require massive financial commitment from Government, manufacturers and consumers, without crippling the UK’s economy.
“Currently public transport infrastructure and service is under huge stress, and so a very high proportion of workers commute to their workplace by car. The consumer’s appetite for Electric Vehicles and financial capability to switch must be considered limited.”
Mr Madderson also pointed to a warning from the National Grid earlier this month that there would be insufficient electricity capacity to refuel electric vehicles if there was a sustained surge in demand.
The PRA chief said the power requirements must be taken into account by Government in their strategic planning for energy resilience.
“In the longer term, the Treasury stand to lose up to £20bn of fuel duty and vat tax income every year if retail sales of petrol and diesel evaporate,” he said. “What are their plans for replacing this significant contributor to the national budget? Are Electric Vehicles suddenly going to bear the brunt of the shortfall?
“The Government also has a responsibility to ensure that the performance criteria promoted by competing EV manufacturers is absolutely fair and correct to protect consumers as they consider switching vehicle types. This particularly refers to speed and mileage claims between recharges.
“Finally, the alternative merits of hydrogen fuel cell technology must continue to be properly encouraged.”