UK government delays ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035: what’s behind the change?

Close up image of a car's exhaust.

The ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans from 2030 has been scrapped, the Prime Minister has announced.

In what he described as “a new approach to achieving net zero”, Rishi Sunak said that it would be pushed back by five years to 2035.

He explained that the Government was “working hard” to make the UK a world leader in electric vehicles (EVs).

“I’m proud that we’ve already attracted billions of new investments from companies like Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover gigafactory, and I expect that 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,” he said

“People are already choosing electric vehicles to such an extent that we’re registering a new one every 60 seconds.

“But I also think that at least for now, it should be you, the consumer that makes that choice, not Government forcing you to do it, because the upfront cost still is high, especially for families struggling with the cost of living.

“Small businesses are worried about the practicalities, and we’ve got further to go to get the charging infrastructure truly nationwide.”

He added: “We need to strengthen our own auto industry so we aren’t reliant on heavily subsidised carbon intensive imports from countries like China.

“So, to give us more time to prepare, I’m announcing today that we’re going to ease the transition to electric vehicles, you’ll still be able to buy petrol and diesel cars and vans until 2035.

“We’re aligning our approach with countries like Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and US states such as California, New York and Massachusetts.”

The change to the phase out date comes just three years after the then PM, Boris Johnson, announced that new ICE cars and vans would not be allowed to be sold in the UK from 2030.

The delay of five years brings the UK in line with the EU’s plans to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars.

The EU Parliament voted to back a European Commission proposal for a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, in June.

The EU’s plans were unveiled last year and sought a reduction to zero CO2 emissions from new cars sold in the bloc by 2035.

MEPs voted to require carmakers to cut their average fleet emissions by 15% in 2025, compared to 2021, by 55% in 2030, and by 100% in 2035.

Paul Hollick, chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), says that, while some of its members will be pleased about the delay, because it takes the pressure to electrify away for the time being, the reaction that it is seeing across the fleet sector to this news is largely negative.

“The motor industry and their fleet customers have invested billions towards meeting the 2030 electrification deadline and while there are serious operational issues that need to be tackled, especially when it comes to electric vans, the assumption within our membership was that the government would need to provide more support, not move the goalposts,” he explained.

“Where we go from here is difficult to say. The global motor industry doesn’t hinge on what the UK Government does, so this is unlikely to do much to change future production plans away from electric vehicles (EVs) towards petrol and diesel while presumably, company car benefit in kind taxation will stay in its current form and continue to encourage fleets to electrify.”

He continued: “In 2030, the vast majority of new cars on sale in the UK, and a substantial element of the used car parc, will almost certainly be battery powered.

“The overwhelming feeling is probably one of irritation. Fleets have done some incredible work when it comes to electrification and it feels as though the can has been kicked down the road in a fairly arbitrary fashion by a government that sees this move as politically expedient.

“There are, of course, a range of dangers. The value of existing EVs may be negatively affected; investment in charging infrastructure may fall away; and there may just be something of a manyana environment around electrification for the next few years.

“However, this must be resisted and it is especially important the local authorities are properly funded to ensure the installation of on-street chargers becomes widespread.”

Reaching net zero in a ‘more proportionate’ way

The change to the UK’s fossil fuel ban, however, was just one of several key green pledges that the PM has watered down.

He said: “It cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet, and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.”

He insisted that the Government was still committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but in a “more proportionate way”.

“We need to change the debate,” he explained. “We’re stuck between two extremes. Those who want to abandon that netzero all together, because the costs are too high, the burdens are too great, or in some cases, they don’t accept the overwhelming evidence for climate change at all.

“And, then there are others who argue with an ideological zeal, we must move even faster and go even further, no matter the cost or disruption to people’s lives, and regardless of how much quicker we’re already moving than any other country.

“Both extremes are wrong. Both fail to reckon with the reality of the situation.

“Yes, net zero is going to be hard and will require us to change, but in a democracy, we must also be able to scrutinise and debate those changes, many of which are hidden in plain sight in a realistic manner.

“This debate needs more clarity, not more emotion. 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.”

After the Conservatives won the by-election in Boris Johnson’s former seat, Uxbridge and South Ruislip, with voters protesting against the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), the Government said it remained committed to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK from 2030.

However, Rishi Sunak, said he wanted to take a “pragmatic” approach to achieving net zero.

Speaking to reporters at the time he promised not to “unnecessarily” add costs and “hassle” to households to hit climate targets.

Government ‘undermining efforts’ on zero-emission cars

When the news first broke that the Government could delay ending the sale of new ICE cars and vans by five years, it was met with anger from the industry.

Ford said that if the Government relaxes its plan to ban new ICE car sales by 2030, it would undermine the steps it has taken to get ready for the change.

Lisa Brankin, Ford UK chair, explained: “Ford has announced a global $50 billion commitment to electrification, launching nine electric vehicles by 2025.

“The range is supported by £430 million invested in Ford’s UK development and manufacturing facilities, with further funding planned for the 2030 timeframe.

“This is the biggest industry transformation in over a century and the UK 2030 target is a vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future.

“Our business needs three things from the UK Government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”

CEO of The Electric Car Scheme, Thom Groot, said that delaying the 2030 date would be a “disaster” for the UK’s climate credibility.

“Transport is the UK’s number one source of emissions and must be dealt with. Luckily, we have the technology to do so – but the path there will be far slower and more painful if the Government can’t decide to stick to its own policies,” he said.

Jon Lawes, managing director at Novuna Vehicle Solutions, also believed that any rollback in the long-standing 2030 deadline would send out the wrong message to manufacturers and drivers, and “threatens future investment in the UK’s battery supply and charging infrastructure, both critical to realising zero emissions mobility”.

“We’ve come a long way and can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

Environment campaign group Transport & Environment said that allowing an extra five years of sales of petrol and diesel cars would “blow a massive hole” in any attempt to get to net zero emissions by 2050.

UK Director of Transport & Environment UK, Richard Hebditch, said: “The 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, and the accompanying zero emissions vehicle mandate, is the biggest carbon cutting measure in the net zero strategy.

“With many cars on the road increasingly lasting close to 20 years, shifting the phase out date means we’re likely to see millions more fossil fuelled cars well past the 2050 net zero target date. This will crash the UK’s carbon budgets.

“The sudden abandonment of long-held policy will send shockwaves across industries that we need to get greenhouse gas emissions to zero – the automotive industry being just one.

“Car and van manufacturers, battery suppliers and gigafactories, as well as charging station providers have all been planning for the 2030 phase-out.

“Now, their plans will be up in the air yet again, creating chaos and uncertainty. The future of the country and the climate deserves better.”

However, Dylan Setterfield, head of forecast strategy at Cap HPI, said: “We always said that 2030 was a very ambitious target and required significant action and forward planning to make it happen.

“Although there has been significant progress in infrastructure development, we think we are behind the BEV penetration required to naturally reach 100% BEV being a reality by 2030 without huge intervention.

“Our assumption had been that the ICE ban would be extended to 2035 by the next UK Government, regardless of which party or parties would be in power, with the new incumbents blaming the current administration for not making sufficient progress to meet the 2030 target.

“Even if the 2030 deadline remains unchanged for passenger cars, we could see changes to the timetable for LCV, or the majority of hybrid vehicles allowed until 2035.”

1 thought on “UK government delays ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035: what’s behind the change?”

  1. Kevin Carroll

    not enough chargers for electric cars, batteries last about 8 years and the cost to replace them around £15,000

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top