Currently reading: Hybrids exempt from Britain's petrol and diesel car ban
Government unveils £2.7bn plan to tackle air pollution; older vehicles may eventually be allowed
Jim Holder
4 mins read
26 July 2017

Only electrified cars and vans will be sold from new in the UK from 2040, the government has announced in a paper published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The move is part of a £2.7bn blueprint for tackling air pollution, and is consistent with the Government’s election manifesto. The ban won't affect cars with hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains, but rather "conventional petrol and diesel cars".

The paper also mentions further possible exemptions for combustion engine cars, once air quality levels improve to a satisfactory point. It says "Local authorities should bear in mind such access restrictions would only be necessary for a limited period and should be lifted once legal compliance is achieved and there is no risk of legal limits being breached again".

A targeted scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles is also being considered, but it won't be ratified until after a consultation period.

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In 2017 around 4% of all new car sales have been plug-in hybrids or fully electric, with around a quarter of that figure sales of fully electric cars. Current predictions by charging point firm Chargemaster suggest that the first one million plug-in hybrid or electric car will be on the road by 2022, by which point electrified car sales will account for around 10% of all new car sales. There are around 40m cars on UK roads today.

Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders CEO Mike Hawes cautioned that the automotive sector could be 'undermined' if the industry was not given enough time to adapt to the new policy.

"Much depends on the cost of these new technologies and how willing consumers are to adopt battery, plug in hybrid and hydrogen cars," said Hawes.

"Currently demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concern over affordability, range and charging points.

France pledges to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040

"Outright bans risk undermining the current market for new cars and our sector which supports over 800,000 jobs across the UK so the industry instead wants a positive approach which gives consumers incentives to purchase these cars."

Additionally, a £255 million fund is expected to be set up to aid councils to clean up the most polluted inner-city areas.

Potential methods of tackling local issues include introducing charging for high-polluting vehicles through to the removal of speed humps and traffic calming measures has also been highlighted as a possible improvement. Money will also be made available to retro-fit pollution-reducing technology to public transport


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Air pollution is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. A government spokesman said: "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.”

The industry reacts

Several car makers have welcomed today's news, with Hyundai stating that the combustion engine ban aligns with its current plans. A spokesperson told Autocar "Hyundai Motor has already launched the new Ioniq – the world’s first car to offer Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and full Electric powertrains all in one bodystyle –which is currently on sale in the UK. To date in 2017, it has sold circa 15,000 Ioniq vehicles in Europe and 2500 in the UK.

"It is also a pioneer in zero emission fuel cell technology and it was the first manufacturer to make a fuel cell vehicle commercially available to the UK market back in October 2014.  To date, we have sold 15 cars here in the UK and 500 across Europe. That is more than all other brands offering Fuel Cell combined.  An all-new fuel cell vehicle will be introduced in 2018."

Vincent Tourette, Renault UK boss said: “We’ve been pioneers in electric vehicles and this news has validated that we got it right before anyone else. We will be ready [for any legislation changes] but we will see if customers choose to go to EVs and if they do, we will be able to deliver.”

When asked about what the UK needs to achieve these targets, Tourette said: “There is work to be done on infrastructure, that remains one of the main weaknesses, especially in central London. There also needs to be ongoing tax incentives.”

Nissan UK put out the following statement: “As the pioneer of electric vehicles, and having sold more than any other company in the world, we welcome plans that encourage people to switch to low or zero emission vehicles. In the future, cars will become an intrinsic part of the way we consume, share and generate energy.”

Paul McNamara, technical boss of Williams Advanced Engineering, which is developing the battery for Aston Martin’s forthcoming RapidE, described the announcement as positive, saying that “it drives the industry forward with a very clear date”.  

He highlighted challenges including the absence of any cell manufacturers in the UK. “We need to see a transition plan and we will have to work hard to make sure we transition jobs in engine plants to jobs in motor and battery plants. I think the Government has a role to play to encourage the battery industry.”

The SMMT's Hawes added: "What has been announced is consistent with what the industry and legislators have been working towards, so in terms of timing 2040 is not unreasonable.

"But putting a firm deadline on it does mean we are betting on the battery technology developing, the infrastructure being there and being robust to heavy use and that the consumer actually wants it. Today, electric cars are more expensive and compromised in some ways compared to combustion engines cars."

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"We would have preferred a target to hit and the ways to hit it being left to industry to work out, but the industry has a history of meeting targets and when we know more detail we work towards them."

Join the debate


26 July 2017
Seems like even May's brain freeze can not withstand the barrage of bad news that the diesel is getting day after day and is thawing albeit unfortunately at a glacial pace to do something that could hurt her best buddy and the diesels chief lobbyist not so angelic Merkel. A real independence from EU should include a new company tax system that is not based on CO2 alone and takes more harmful gases into account too. The inclusion of NOX in devising tax subsidies is more important for UK than the US since UK population is ten times more land squeezed hence more prone to NOX toxicity.

26 July 2017
fadyady wrote:

. The inclusion of NOX in devising tax subsidies is more important for UK than the US since UK population is ten times more land squeezed hence more prone to NOX toxicity.


Subsidies? Presume you mean charges.......

26 July 2017
I do mean generous and misplaced subsidies, exemptions, prefetential rates or discounts that the diesel still enjoys over petrol cars. VED is now pretty much same for everyone but the company car taxes are still based on co2 without any consideration to more harmful emissions from diesel cars.

27 July 2017
fadyady wrote:

I do mean generous and misplaced subsidies, exemptions, prefetential rates or discounts that the diesel still enjoys over petrol cars. VED is now pretty much same for everyone but the company car taxes are still based on co2 without any consideration to more harmful emissions from diesel cars.

fadyady conveniently omits to mention the high levels, compared to diesel, of CO emitted by petrol cars that is a deadly gas far more poisonous than Nox. Also current laws demand a huge reduction in Co2 output of cars achievable only by going diesel. The whole air quality issue only really applies to towns where private car use probably will be banned due to congestion as much as air quality. The Green brigade are already after banning the use of Natural gas for heating in towns due to pollution .  I find it amusing that compared to the 1950's the air quality in London and other cities is very clean and my generation who grew up in that pollution have the greatest life expectancy.


26 July 2017

So I'm not quite sure where you got your thinking from there Fadyady?

I agree with you about the way company car tax is determined though. 

I imagine there will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth among the more reactionary petrolheads, but I'm sure it will still be alright to drive older/classic cars for anoyone who is prepared to pay the tax. 

26 July 2017

She's not the only one with brain freeze - this affects petrol too. How you gonna cope?

26 July 2017
You got that right. I can feel the chill from her brain freeze already. Having said that I will find a way to still drive a petrol car after 2040.

26 July 2017

This ban is coming in when I'm 70. I'm guessing that most readers will be a similar age or older. It's not exactly a hugely worrying development.

26 July 2017

There is so much wrong with this announcement I don't know where to start.

Let's start with the timescale. 23 years to have charging equipment installed across the whole country, from the tip of the remotest parts of Scotland, down to Lands End.  Not going to happen.

23 years to increase the load capacity of the already stretched national grid. Not going to happen.

By 2040, 99.99% of all the cars below the present EU6 the emmision standards will be off the road - in fact we'll probably be at EU10 by then. So what's the point? This ridiculous bandwagon jumping is trying to solve a problem that is already diminishing.

26 July 2017

I agree with every word of this. 


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