New sales of petrol and diesel vehicles to end in 2040
It’s fair to say that the publication of the long-awaited Government clean air plan has received mixed reviews both from everyday motorists and fleet professionals.
The most headline-grabbing initiative is around the decision to stop all new sales of petrol and diesel vehicles, from 2040, with only electric vehicles and hybrid zero-emission capable cars and vans allowed. Although, owners of petrol and diesel vehicles will of course still be able to drive them.
But there’s no doubt we are entering a period of transition with more and more manufacturers bringing out new models of EVs, both cars and now light commercial vehicles.
RAC roads policy expert Nicholas Lyes has been looking at the detail of the clean air plan, and here answer’s some key questions about the Government’s bid to cut emissions.
Q. The vast majority of businesses in the UK rely on their diesel vans and cars, what do these changes mean for them?
A. One of the biggest changes in the short term is the proposal to tax new diesel vehicles more heavily, which comes with pros and cons. It suggests existing diesel drivers will not be adversely affected, but this could severely harm both private owners and businesses that rely on the economy of diesel for high mileage driving, especially if new model diesels prove to be cleaner when real-world testing is introduced.
“Plans to retrofit buses and taxis are welcome, but this must be done more urgently and we would encourage the Government to set a target for this in the same way they have done with the 2040 target for stopping the sale of new private petrol and diesel vehicles. Critically, buses and taxis are the vehicles which are likely to cover the most miles in urban areas so it is imperative that these are looked at first.
However plans for a diesel scrappage scheme appear to be at best tentative – of course it must be targeted and shown to provide tangible reductions in emissions and value for money for taxpayers.
Ultimately, business owners should start planning for a future where electric vehicles will be the norm. Already we see some types of businesses, couriers for example, using electric vans in London because they can avoid the C charge and reduce costs.
But for businesses that have heavier loads in their vehicles, and have further to travel around the UK and into Europe, it is imperative that manufacturers address their needs and improve EV technology for LCVS in the next five years or so.
Q. Will banning sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles help to reduce emissions?
A. The Government signalling the end of the sale of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 is a bold move – but the reality is that the UK is nowhere near ready for such a sweeping shift to electric vehicles and a huge amount of work will need to be done to meet this deadline.
While drivers are keen to reduce their emissions footprint and help clean up our air, they are concerned about the cost and battery range of electric vehicles.
This is borne out by RAC research that shows only 2% of motorists believe their next car purchase will be pure electric. With more models coming on to the market and the inevitable increase in competition driven by the 2040 target, these fears should reduce in time.
Q. Should charging schemes such as the London congestion charge be rolled out more widely across the UK?
A. Charging vehicle owners to drive on certain roads and in certain areas must be the last resort. The Government has not yet made it clear what process needs to be followed before a charging regime comes in to force. Where charging regimes are proposed the Government must ensure that all other solutions for reducing emissions have been exhausted.
Q. Will there be enough charge points to make the switch to EVs viable?
A. Unfortunately there is little evidence to suggest that the UK’s energy infrastructure will be ready for the largescale shift to electric vehicles, and it’s vital the energy used to power these vehicles comes from the greenest possible sources.
Right now public charging facilities are patchy, there is very little on-street charging in residential areas and unlike filling up a petrol or diesel car, drivers cannot recharge a vehicle in a matter of minutes.
Q. Should local authorities take the lead on making it possible to drive EVs, as they should know what’s best for their own towns and cities?
A. While reducing harmful emissions should be tackled locally, where the problem exists, we question whether councils have the skills or resources to take on the task of objectively finding the best means of cutting air pollution.
Given the urgency of the situation, there is a real risk that authorities will rush to implement ill-thought through solutions to meet the Government’s deadline for final plans at the end of next year.
It is good to see that the Government will ‘assess local plans to ensure they are effective, fair, good value, and deliver the necessary air quality compliance’, but it is vital this is done thoroughly so drivers and businesses are not unfairly penalised.
The Government has rightly focused on a number of other things that can be done at a local level to improve air quality. Tackling bottlenecks, resequencing traffic lights, replacing speed humps with other safety measures to improve flow, and looking at road design are measures that can be addressed right away. However, local authorities will need significant assistance from the Government to make sure some of these sensible proposals are viable.