Only fully electric cars and vans will be sold in the UK from 2040, the Government has announced in a plan published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). The plan will not affect hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles; only new cars and vans with conventional petrol and diesel engines.
The news signals the start of a long-term crackdown on air pollution, which the government says is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Previous governments have been criticised by clean air campaigners for failing to do enough to reduce pollution levels.
The car industry has already been set tough emissions targets in the coming months and years, and every petrol and diesel car manufacturer is developing electrified systems to reduce pollution, ranging from mild hybrid 48V systems that can reduce fuel consumption by 10% through to hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
Ministers have been urged to introduce charges for vehicles to enter a series of “clean air zones” (CAZ). However, the government only wants taxes to be considered as a last resort, fearing a backlash against any move that punishes motorists.
“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,” a government spokesman said. “That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3bn programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.”
The final plan, which was due by the end of July, comes after a draft report that environmental lawyers described as “much weaker than hoped for”. Electric car sales in the UK are at record levels, but still only account for around 1% of all new car sales.
Projections from electric car charging firm Chargemaster suggest that one million plug-in hybrid or electric cars will be on our roads by 2022, at which point they will account for 10% of all sales, and that by 2027 registrations of such vehicles will account for around 30% of new car sales.