The government’s plan to “end
the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars” by 2040 grabbed the
national media headlines when it published its ‘UK Plan for Tackling
Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’, but the policy, in reality, is
far from new.
In fact the government effectively first announced the
measure in 2011 - making the UK the first country to make the leap - when it
said it was “our intention that conventional car and
van sales would end by 2040, and for almost every car and van on the road to be
a zero emission vehicle by 2050”.
It is understood that hybrid vehicles will be excluded from
the ban, while Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor
Manufacturer5s and Traders, said: “We could undermine the UK’s successful automotive sector if we don’t
allow enough time for the industry to adjust.”
The Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) responded to
the government’s proposals to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel car and
vans from 2040 by saying that in the “short to medium term instability in the
used market was “highly unlikely”. It said that the deadline was
far enough away that its “strongest effects will not be felt for some
VRA chairman Glenn Sturley said: “It is highly unlikely that this announcement
will have any kind of immediate effect on the market for used petrol and diesel
vehicles, especially those that meet the newer, cleaner Euro5 and Euro6
However, Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol
Retailers’ Association, said: “The warning issued by 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, 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 £20
billion of fuel duty and VAT tax income every year if retail sales of petrol
and diesel evaporate. 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?”
France has also announced similar plans to phase out
petrol and diesel cars from 2040; Norway plans to ban the sale of all fossil
fuel-based cars by 2025; and Volvo recently said that every car it launched
from 2019 would have an electric motor, marking the historic end of models that
had only an internal combustion engine and placing electrification at the core
of its future business.
Meanwhile, in recent years the government has ploughed
hundreds of millions of pounds into supporting the uptake of ultra-low emission
and plug-in vehicles among fleets and consumers. What’s more, in addition to
measures already underway the government says it is developing
further initiatives and will set them out in:
- The Clean Growth Plan
which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will bring
forward in the autumn. It will gather views on measures to support motorists, residents and businesses
affected by local plans - such as retrofitting, subsidised car club
memberships, exemptions from any vehicles restrictions, or a targeted scrappage
scheme for car and van drivers.
- A further strategy on
the pathway to zero emission transport for all road vehicles to be published by
- A wider Clean Air
Strategy in 2018 setting out how it will meet the UK’s international
commitments to significantly reduce emissions of five damaging air pollutants
by 2020, and 2030.
However, in publishing its “UK
Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations”, the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport focused
on road transport emissions.
In May DEFRA and the Department for Transport published the
government’s draft Air Quality Plan. But, in a long-running legal battle, the
High Court ordered it publish the official plan by 31 July. By appearing to
only address “roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations” the plan seems to fall
short of what was expected to be published and aimed at tackling breaches of
air quality standards in towns and cities nationwide.
Secretary Michael Gove said: “[The] plan sets out how we will work with local authorities to tackle the
effects of roadside pollution caused by dirty diesels, in particular nitrogen
“This is one
element of the government’s £3 billion programme to clean up the air and reduce
quality is about more than just transport, so next year we will publish a
comprehensive Clean Air Strategy. This will set out how we will address all
forms of air pollution, delivering clean air for the whole country.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are
determined to deliver a green revolution in transport and reduce pollution in
our towns and cities.
“We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and
van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050 which is why we’ve committed to
investing more than £600 million in the development, manufacture and use of
ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.
“We are also putting forward proposals for van drivers to
have the right to use heavier vehicles if they are electric or gas-powered,
making it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner commercial vehicles.”
Internal combustion engine vehicles, and particularly
diesels, are widely blamed for poor air quality standards and the government
acknowledges that the 2040 ban “will not happen quickly enough” so more must be
The document says: “We therefore have a clear ambition
and policy agenda to improve air quality, backed up with significant
Nevertheless, it points out that: “Air quality has
improved significantly in recent decades. Since 1970 sulphur dioxide emissions
have decreased by 95%, particulate matter by
73%, and nitrogen oxides by 69%. Total UK emissions of
nitrogen oxides fell by a further 19% between 2010 and 2015.”
The government is forecasting that by 2021 “fewer than
100 major roads”, mostly in towns and cities, will continue to have air
government wants local authorities, with the help of a £255 million cash
handout, to take the lead and clean up those ‘hot spots’, although it will set
a clear national framework.
A wide variety
of measures are proposed for the named 29 local council with the worst air
quality to consider including: changing road layouts to solve congestion,
encouraging public and private uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles; using
innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encouraging the use of
public transport. If those measures are insufficient, the government says “charging zones
or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular
times” could be considered.
Cars and vans that meet Euro6 diesel or Euro4 petrol
emission standards would be exempt from any charge as would full electric or
hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The government wants local authorities to set out initial
plans by the end of March 2018 and follow those up with final plans by the end
of December 2018. Final approval of the plans rest with the government.
The government document says: “Our
evidence suggests that exceedances in NO2 are highly localised - limited, for the
most part, to a few problem roads rather than an entire town or city centre.
The plans put forward by local authorities should reflect this, ensuring that
measures are carefully targeted to minimise their impact on local residents and
The government says it will work with local authorities and others to
consider how to help minimise the impact of measures on local businesses,
residents and those travelling into towns and cities to work where such action
is necessary; and will issue a further consultation in autumn to aid
development and assessment of options.
That consultation will include an analysis looking at the
viability of a scrappage scheme focussing on “certain groups of drivers who
most need support (such as those on lower incomes or those living in the
immediate vicinity of a Clean Air Zone) and providing an incentive to switch to
a cleaner vehicle”.
Five cities - Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and
Southampton - are already required to introduce Clean Air Zones under the
government’s 2015 UK Air Quality Plan. Additionally local authorities in
Greater Manchester and in Bristol and South Gloucestershire have secured Air
Quality Grant funding to develop Clean Air Zone proposals.
The government says it will work closely with those local
authorities with a view to them finalising detailed proposals covering entry
and charging criteria to the Clean Air Zones within 18 months for introduction
in 2020 or sooner if possible.
In a bid to answer criticism that the plug-in vehicle
recharging infrastructure is inadequate, the government says Highways England
will support the uptake of electric cars and vans by working to ensure that 95%
of the major road network it manages will have a chargepoint every 20 miles and
that where possible, they will be rapid chargepoints.
Furthermore, the government will later this year publish
new vehicle buying standards that will “set down minimum mandatory and best
practice standards requirements for cars, vans, buses and trucks”. The new
standard will “encourage procurers to choose ultra-low emission vehicles where
The government also planning to:
regulations within 12 months, subject to consultation, to support the take up
of alternatively-fuelled light commercial vehicles (see below)
- Explore the
future tax treatment of diesel vehicles, an announcement is expected in the
The ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’
is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/633022/air-quality-plan-detail.pdf