Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030. But will this deadline have any impact on the vehicles that were going to be in showrooms in nine years’ time?
It has finally been confirmed.
After months of speculation, Boris Johnson has laid bare his ambitious plans to steer us all towards electric vehicles sooner than we thought – and many would like – by announcing an earlier date for the ban on the sale of new cars with petrol and diesel engines.
And he hasn’t just shaved the deadline, nor has he trimmed it back like a landscaper finely pruning a bush.
Instead, the Prime Minister has hacked an entire decade off the government’s original commitment, declaring that all new motors with solely internal combustion engines cannot be purchased from 2030.
The prospect of a prohibition on new petrol and diesel cars in just nine years will undoubtedly rile and concern motorists up and down the county.
There will be common themes in the public’s backlash: ‘It’s too soon. Electric cars are too expensive. They take too long to charge and don’t have enough range. The infrastructure isn’t good enough. The grid will collapse…’
Without doubt, electric vehicle perturbation is rife.
However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Boris’ accelerated ban will have very little impact on the new cars that manufacturers would have been selling to us in 109 months’ time anyway – and I’m no green-blooded EV advocate.
Here are six key reasons why I think drivers shouldn’t panic about a 2030 deadline…
1. ‘We won’t be alone when we ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030’
The first important point to note is that the UK is not the only nation earmarking a date for a sales ban of new cars with internal combustion engines.
In fact, it now brings us directly in-line with countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and – much more importantly – Germany, which are also committed to the same 2030 deadline.
The latter is one of the powerhouse automotive markets in Europe, with hugely influential manufacturers, including VW Group, BMW and Daimler, which sell millions of motors with internal combustion engines globally each year, within its borders.
Of the 1.3 million new cars registered in the UK so far this year, over half a million are produced by these three car makers alone, industry figures show.
Despite this, it is also planning to omit new petrol and diesel cars from showrooms in nine years.
This signifies that German auto makers – which have close ties to the government – are supremely confident that a 2030 target for a wide-scale roll-out of electric vehicles is feasible.
As important as Britain’s motor industry is, the cut-off date for Germany has a far greater power to change things.
Norway has the earliest date for a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars, which is rubber-stamped for 2025 – just four years’ time
Attractive incentives and grants for electric car ownership has seen demand for plug-in cars soar in Norway. Last year, 50% of new vehicles registered there were electric
In some countries, the death of new petrol and diesel cars will come even sooner.
Norway has the most ambitious target of selling only new electric cars from 2025. Already, with the introduction of attractive incentives and grants, it is half way to achieving that.
In 2019, around 50 per cent of all new cars registered in Norway were 100 per cent electric models.
In September 2020, 60 per cent of sales were battery electric vehicles – 89 per cent when you include hybrids. It’s clear proof that having the right infrastructure in place provides the foundations for a mainstream switch to plug-in vehicles.
And if France – the second most prominent automotive sector in Europe and home to the likes of Renault, Citroen and Peugeot – was also to come on board with an earlier deadline than the 2040 date it currently proposes, it would almost certainly cement the end of the road for the internal combustion engine.
Car manufacturers are already actively killing off their diesel model ranges as demand for oil burners continues to shrink
2. ‘New diesel cars will be long gone by 2030’
The fast-tracked ban on new cars with internal combustion engines will – without doubt – have much larger implications for petrol vehicles than it will for diesels.
That’s because oil burners will be long gone from widespread sale in showrooms before 2030.
Manufacturers have been responding to a monumental decline in demand for diesels in recent years by pulling them from their line-ups already.
Before VW’s Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal in 2015, diesels accounted for 50 per cent of all new cars registered in the UK. In 2020, they contribute to just 16 per cent of sales and continue to slide.
Whereas once they were seen as the answer to reducing carbon emissions, they are now seen as the problem for air pollution.
Diesel cars make up just 16.6% of new car registrations so far in 2020. BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs collectively almost match oil burners, with 16% of the UK’s market share
Reacting to this cliff-edge decline in demand, the likes of Ford, Honda and Renault in recent months have committed to removing some – or all – diesel-engine cars from their ranges, either with immediate effect or from the beginning of 2021.
They join the likes of Volvo, Porsche, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Lexus and Toyota – to name just a few – who have already scheduled an end of development for diesel engines.
It means the chances of walking into a showroom in 2029 and having the choice of buying a diesel-engined car is slim to none. In fact, diesel will almost be at death’s door by the end of 2021.
Boris hasn’t closed the door entirely on hybrids. Plug-in hybrids, like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV he’s pictured here driving, will remain on sale until 2035 – and conventional hybrids could also join them…
3. ‘The door has not been closed on hybrids for 2030’
The future of hybrid cars – which supplement a petrol engine with electric power – remains unclear following the Prime Minister’s statement.
In his words, he will ‘allow the sale of hybrid cars that can drive a significant distance without emitting carbon until 2035’.
This hints at new plug-in hybrid vehicles only, which can be connected to the mains or charging devices to boost their battery capacities and can be driven distances of between 20 and 55 miles using electric power alone.
But the lack of clarification for what the Government deems a ‘significant distance’ has left the door wide open for conventional hybrids – such as the Toyota Prius – to potentially be included in the later deadline too.
These cars, which have smaller on-board batteries but can’t be plugged in to boost their electric-driving capacities, can cover only one or two miles in electric-only mode.
Is that significant? It is if you’re only driving a couple of miles a day.
Today, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has indicated that the government may allow conventional hybrids to remain on sale until 2035, though this has yet to be rubber-stamped.
What is considered a ‘significant distance’ to travel without emitting any carbon will go to consultation – and we won’t be getting an explicit answer until next year.
The Prime Minister in 2015, when he was London Mayor, travelled to Tokyo for the official unveiling of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The move to not entirely rule out hybrids will raise a few eyebrows, especially as this government has already showcased a serious lack of understanding about the substantial differences between types of hybrid cars.
Just last week – yes, a matter of days before the 2030 announcement was scheduled to be made – the Department for International Trade buoyantly tweeted the news that Nissan will build an electric Qashqai SUV in Sunderland from next year.
However, the 2021 Qashqai is not electric. In fact, it’s a hybrid – and a hybrid that cannot be plugged in.
The department’s tweet has since been deleted and replaced with a factually correct replacement. We recommend ministers read our electric vehicle jargon buster to clarify the differences before punching out their social media posts.
It’s also worth noting that most new cars with petrol engines on sale nearer the 2030 deadline will include some level of hybridisation. It remains to be seen which classifications of hybrid cars will be allowed to be sold until 2035.
4. ‘Manufacturers are already committed to producing increased volumes of electric and hybrid cars ahead of 2030’
As well as declaring the end of their relationship with diesel engines, manufacturers have already started pledging when they will be booting the internal combustion engine from their ranges entirely.
And most of these commitments are for 2030 or earlier.
For instance, every new Volvo on sale today has some form of electrification. The Swedish brand says it will launch a fully electric car every year from now to 2025 and half of its range will be battery-electric vehicles, the other 50 per cent plug-in hybrids.
Volkswagen, one of the world’s biggest car makers, has said it will release almost 70 new electric models by 2028.
BMW says it expects a third of cars its sells in Europe to be purely electric by 2025 – half by 2030, with the rest hybrids.
Even Bentley, which has historically only sold cars with thirsty V8 and V12 petrol engines, has said it will only be offering entirely electric vehicles in nine years time.
Bentley to be electric in 2030: The iconic British brand will ditch petrol engines for good in a decade’s time, it has confirmed this month
Bentley’s Crewe factory won’t look like this in 2030. It will be producing entirely electric cars in 9 years, the brand says
Even the UK’s biggest car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, says it is ready for the 2030 ban. That’s despite years of it being overly reliant on diesel for its heavy SUVs – a decision that has seen it suffer significant losses caused by the massive decline in demand for oil burners.
It brought its first fully-electric car – the I-Pace SUV – to market in 2018 and says it has ‘already embraced the direction of the government’s announcement, investing heavily in fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles for a zero-emissions future’.
It’s also important to take into account that Tesla from next year will be selling an [extremely expensive] electric car that can be driven in excess of 520 miles on a full charge.
A recent trial by Hyundai using its 64kWh Kona Electric SUVs found they can be driven more than 1,000km (621 miles) on a single charge – more than double the driving range claimed – when driving only in ‘heavy urban traffic’ in Germany.
While this doesn’t categorically say that electric vehicles are already suitable for all, it does signal that range anxiety could soon become less of an issue as manufacturers continue to redefine the capacities of their vehicles.
While it will be argued that there are challenges ahead for a 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, it will barely affect manufacturers and the schedules they have already outlined for electrifying their cars.
Jaguar Land Rover, which has been heavily reliant on diesel engines for years, says it is ready to meet the Government’s new target of selling only hybrid and electric cars from 2030. Pictured: the brand’s first and – currently – only BEV, the Jaguar I-Pace, launched in 2018
Tesla’s 520-mile (and 200mph) electric family car for 2021: Britons can already order the Model S Plaid on the firm’s UK website. It’s not cheap, with an asking price of £131,000
In August, Hyundai managed to eek out over 1,000km of range from a single charge in its Kona Electric SUV. They were being driven at pedestrian speeds to simulate urban routes, but it still shows the capabilities of EVs on the market already
5. Electric cars ‘will cost the same as petrols by 2024’
One of the biggest concerns motorists will have with a ban on new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 is the premium price of electric models.
It’s estimated that an average a pure electric car currently costs 2.5 times that of a comparable petrol car – though this average is likely inflated by the huge cost of premium EVs, especially Teslas.
But we’re already seeing the price of the latest electric cars falling: Volkswagen’s new ID.3, which is similar in size to a Golf family hatchback, will cost less than £30,000. That’s a third more than a petrol Golf will cost right now, but shows the gap is already starting to close.
VW’s electric family car , the ID.3 (left), costs less than £30,000 in the UK – and cheaper versions will be arriving next year, The cheapest equivalent VW Golf (right) with a petrol engine is currently £23,300
Experts say the declining cost of lithium-ion batteries will soon bring electric vehicle production cost parity with that of petrol and diesel cars. Investment bank UBS has calculated an EV will cost the same as an equivalent petrol model as early as 2040
And the gulf in prices is going to continue to shrink, says investment bank UBS.
It has calculated that electric cars will cost the same to make as conventional motors by as early as 2024. This is due to falling battery prices.
Based on analysis of the seven largest manufacturers, it says the extra cost to manufacture powerful lithium ion batteries versus their fossil fuel equivalents will shrink to just $1,900 (around £1,500) per car by 2022. By 2024, it says there be complete price parity with internal combustion vehicles.
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Tim Bush, an analyst at the bank, said there will not be ‘many reasons left to buy an internal combustion engine car after 2025’ and car makers that try to hang on to sales of petrol and diesel powered cars ‘risk being left behind by rivals such as Tesla and Volkswagen’.
This seems optimistic to say the least. However, as electric cars become increasingly more mainstream, prices will become more affordable for more people.
Factor into the equation that eight in ten new car buyers use car finance – mainly Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) plans – to spread the cost of vehicle ownership across monthly instalments and the outlay for EVs won’t be much different to petrol cars.
Also take into account that electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and they are less likely to breakdown or need components replacing over the period of ownership. Garage bills should – in theory – shrink.
Insurance will also become less expensive.
‘Whilst drivers may expect to pay more to insure electric cars due to their higher on the road price, over time, we would expect the prices of these vehicles to come down to match those of fossil fuel powered vehicles – likewise car insurance premiums could well reduce in line with this,’ says Lee Griffin, ceo at GoCompare.
With all these additional factors taken into account, EV ownership could be far more affordable than today’s high purchase prices suggest.
Five years ago, Boris Johnson was the mayor of London. Today, the PM has confirmed that Britons won’t be able to buy new petrol and diesel cars after 2030. It’s proof that a lot can change in a few years…
6. ‘A lot can change in nine years…’
The most poignant element to consider, especially during a pandemic that few of us would have predicted just a year ago, is that a lot can change between now and 2030.
It has been just three years since ministers proposed to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy (shortly followed by the Clean Air Strategy in 2019).
Since then, both 2035 and 2032 have been bounded around as potential deadlines.
With 2030 the date the Prime Minster has eventually backed, he now has his work cut out to ensure the infrastructure – especially the number of localised charging points – is in place and running smoothly in time.
What must be stressed is that motorists will still be able to drive older conventional cars after a ban in 2030 and will continue to do so until 2050, the target date for Britain to be carbon neutral.
What is without question is that in the course of the next decade motorists are going to experience the biggest shift change in the vehicles they’re driving in over a century.