Is This the End for Petrol and Diesel Car and Vans?

The sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from 2040 in a £3 billion new clean air strategy to tackle air pollution, the Government confirmed yesterday (26/07/17), following a similar ruling by France.

A diesel scrappage plan for the immediate short term was rejected on the grounds that previous schemes had been “poor value” but consultation is expected to be revived in the autumn, which is when London’s T-charge or toxicity charge will supplement the Congestion Charge for many older cars and vans.

However the Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) said that any short-term impact of the announcement on the used car market was “highly unlikely”.

The trade organisation – which represents companies that are involved in remarketing more than 1.5 million vehicles every year – says that the deadline is far enough away that its strongest effects will not be felt for some considerable time.

Chairman Glenn Sturley said: “The implications of this announcement are huge and a more measured approach to this news reaching the market would have been welcome.

“It is certainly something that will institute significant changes – from a remodelling of our city streets to install mass recharging networks for electric cars to potential loss of jobs in the oil industry.”

The government announcement ruled out fiscal penalties for diesel users because of past governments’ incentives to switch from petrol to diesel, reflected in the table featured below.

In 1996 diesel powered less than one in ten cars and 60% of vans, while in 2016 the proportions had risen to 39% of cars and 96.2% of vans with the total number of vehicles on the road up from 24.4m in 1996 to 34.5m in 2016, according to figures from the DVLA.

In a long-term challenge to business car planning and investment, a diesel and petrol ban would eventually knock out hybrids too – the zero emissions edict leaving just pure electric and fuel cell vehicles in the 2040 new car showrooms.

Such zero emission vehicles currently account for less than one-third of alternative fuel new vehicle registrations. Alternative Fuel Vehicle registrations currently amount to 4% of new car registrations.

The government has said that by 2040 ‘most vehicles’ will be zero emissions, with all vehicles by 2050, leaving a decade to phase out what by then will be fossil fuel dinosaurs.

The 22 years to 2040 may seem a long time, but not in radical automotive vehicle and infrastructure redesign, with an average seven-year generation cycle for a new car.

This is not to mention the financial and environmental implications for scrappage of what’s left of the country’s cars and vans currently numbering approaching 35 million.

By comparison the HS2 high speed rail link between London and the Midlands, first proposed in 2009 with construction starting in 2017, is scheduled for completion in 2033 at the latest cost estimate of £56 billion.

Not surprisingly the move has been welcomed by those involved in electric vehicle infrastructure.

Alex Bamberg, managing director of ChargePoint Services, said. “The market is accelerating much faster than the Governments’ deadline of 2040, we see an expediential take up of electric vehicles and charging which will bring the UK more in line with Norway’s deadline of 2025.

“This announcement will surely bring about a step change with consumers demanding new electric models and turning away from purchasing traditional ICE powered vehicles. In 2016, sales of alternatively fueled vehicles (AFVs) experienced a huge increase, with demand up 22% across the year, and 10,000 motorists choosing to go pure electric.

“The announcement is likely to fuel this demand and we expect that figures for 2017 will increase significantly.”

And then there’s the question of heavy haulage, such as trucks and construction vehicles – as well as other pollution factors such as from shipping and domestic and commercial heating systems.

A £255m fund is to be offered to help councils speed up local measures to deal with pollution from diesel vehicles, as part of the £3bn in spending on air quality.

Yet critics said the 2040 ban was “too little too late”, with the Liberal Democrats calling for new diesel sales to end by 2025.

The Government will include the 2040 ban in a court-mandated clean air strategy being published July 26, just days before the July 31 deadline set by the High Court.

It was ordered to produce new plans to tackle illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide after the courts agreed with environmental campaigners that previous proposals were not enough to meet EU pollution limits.

France and Germany are already ahead of the UK in setting low emission zones where the worst polluting petrol and diesel vehicles are banned.