What does the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel cars really mean?

THE government has announced that it will ban petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 as part of its air quality plan.

Cars PA

The government is banning all 'conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040'

The bold announcement shocked many and bought electric and hybrid vehicles into the limelight.

Once seen as a new fangled fad, these cars will soon become the norm for the masses.

Here’s what the announcement means to you.

Mike Hawes PA

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

What’s going on?

Despite early reports suggesting drastic changes to the law, the likely reality is that the only vehicles to be banned will be those that don’t have an electric motor of some kind – meaning hybrids can still be sold.

However, despite impressive growth over the past year, alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) currently still hold a tiny market share.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of motor industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said there needs to be “incentives to purchase” electrified cars, adding: “Currently demand for AFVs is growing, but is still at a very low level as consumers have concerns over affordability, range and charging points.”

“The UK needs to find a way for millions of cars to be recharged quickly and simply as soon as possible”

John Pettigrew - National Grid chief executive

How will the 2040 ban work?

The government hasn’t explained how it is going to implement the ban, saying that it will continue to consult on the matter.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, has called for a clear and considered ramp-up to the ban, saying: “It will have almost no impact on NOx emissions here and now. It is what the government does in the short term to kick-start the transition and maintain its momentum that really matters.”

It is also unlikely that a nationwide diesel scrappage scheme will be introduced to help people make the transition to cleaner cars – however many car manufacturers have now implemented their own to kick start change.

Charging point PA

At the end of August there were nearly 5,000 charging locations in the UK

Can our EV infrastructure cope?

There’s plenty of debate about whether the UK’s infrastructure could stand up to an influx of electrified vehicles.

According to Zap Map, which helps EV owners find their nearest charging point, at the end of August there were nearly 5,000 charging locations in the UK, with more than 13,000 connectors between them – that would have to increase drastically to accommodate the government’s proposal.

There are also fears that the grid could be overloaded by a high numbers of electric vehicle owners charging their cars at peak times. UK Power Networks, which supplies energy to London, the east and south-east of England, recently shared its plans to transform its network to be “smarter” in order to cope with the increased demands electric cars will place on the National Grid.

This includes giving consumers the option to delay charging during peak hours to save money, with communication of when is the best time to charge potentially happening via an app.

National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew said: “The UK needs to find a way for millions of cars to be recharged quickly and simply as soon as possible.”

Other key issues that Pettigrew wants addressed include the “standardisation of charging points” and encouraging “technology, automotive and energy industries
to work together as closely as possible to plan for the future”.

Michael Gove PA

Michael Gove - Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Does the government plan go far enough?

There are many who think these steps don’t go far enough. Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said: “We have had seven years of illegal air pollution under this Conservative government who have only acted after being dragged through the courts.

“Despite the scale of the problem of illegal air pollution, we are presented with further consultations and delays and no detail about how the government’s 2040 target will be achieved.”

Meanwhile, Ian Walker, professor of statistics and traffic psychology at the University of Bath, said: “My first impression is that this looks rather unambitious.

"If we know something has bad effects for public health, then to postpone a solution for decades is, implicitly, to accept that there will be a lot more of those bad effects for a prolonged period.

Walker has also called for better education, so that using cars for short journeys becomes “difficult, expensive and/or socially unacceptable”.

What the ban means – in brief

The government is banning all “conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040”.

It’s likely that petrol- and diesel-electric hybrid models can continue to be sold.

So far there has been no indication of how the ban will be implemented.

A government-backed diesel scrappage scheme is highly unlikely, but car manufacturers have implemented their own upgrade incentives.

Clean Air Zones in high-polluting areas are one way local authorities could encourage motorists to buy electrified models.

The death knell hasn’t been rung for modern diesels just yet, as Euro 6-compliant engines are generally considered clean enough to be exempt from any potential bans or extra taxation.


Sign up to our newsletter