Breaking: UK Government to delay introduction of 2030 ICE ban
Prime minister announces five-year delay to non-zero emission ban as part of wider series of climate change policies.
The government will postpone the ban on the sale of new petrol- and diesel-engined cars from 2030 until 2035, prime minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed.
The ban is currently due to come into force in 2030, although certain hybrid powertrains capable of 'significant zero-emission running' will be allowed until 2035. But that date has now been pushed back so that all cars can be sold until 2035. It is part of a series of delays to key 'green' policies that Rishi Sunak has announced – although he said that the government is still committed to the UK reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The announcement was due to be made in a speech on Friday, but was hastily brought forward to today (20 September) due to a number of leaks.
Opinion: Constant government failings means 2030 ban delay is no surprise
In his statement, Sunak said that "we're working hard to make the UK a world leader" in electric vehicles, citing that "we've already attracted billions of new investment."
He added: "I expect by 2030 the vast majority of cars sold will be electric, because the costs are reducing, the range is improving, the charging infrastructure is growing. I also think, at least for now, it should be you that makes that choice, not the government forcing you to do it. Because the upfront cost is high. We've got further to go to get the charging infrastructure in place.
"So to give us more time to prepare we're going to ease the transition to electric vehicles. You'll still be able to buy a combusiton engined vehicle until 2035."
Sunak noted that 2035 date brings the UK in line with other countries including the European Union and Canada.
The prime minister also vowed that existing petrol- and diesel-engined cars would be allowed to be sold on the second-hand market after 2035 – although since the ban only ever applied to new cars, this would have the case under the previously announced 2030 target.
Speaking more broadly about the government's commitment to its 2050 net zero target, Sunak said that he thought that could be achieved without "burdening" the public with "unrealistic" policies.
He added: "The test should be: do we have the fairest credible path to reach net zero by 2050 in a way that brings people with us? Since I've been prime minister I've examined our [previous] plans and I don't think they meet that test." But he added that he was "unequivocal" that the UK would meet all its international climate target commitments.
It is unclear yet how the delay in the ban will work, and whether it will affect the planned ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) mandate that will require car makers to sell an increasing number of zero-emission cars in the coming years.
While a number of other policies are being changed, it is the plan to push back the combustion engine car ban that has attracted the most reaction – including opposition from a number of Conservative members of parliament. One anonymous Conservative MP told Sky News the prospect of delaying the ban was "bonkers", adding: "Every automotive company is investing in EV. We've just given Tata all this money to make batteries."
Ford UK chair Lisa Brankin said: "We need policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong. Infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost of living is high."
Mikes Hawes, the head of the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT) which represents the UK car industry,said: "To make this a reality consumers must want to make the switch, which requires from government a clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety. Confusion and uncertainty will only hold them back."
Government indecision on 2030 ban
This isn't the first time that the government has appeared to waver on the 2030 ban, with doubts over its introduction following the Uxbridge by-election – where opposition to the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone was seen as critical to a Conservative victory.
As recently as July, cabinet member Michael Gove had categorically denied that the government would alter the planned ban, saying that “the policy remains”.
He added: "We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold. I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand, but no, that policy remains."
Sunak has previously hinted at changes to climate change-based policies that in his view "unfairly impact the public". In July, he said the UK would “make progress towards net zero” but “in a proportionate and pragmatic way” that “doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives”, adding: “That’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”
Sunak's comments in July came after ministers, mainly from a new group of right-wing Conservative MPs, called for a rethink on some green policies.
In response, he said: “I’m standing up for the British people because I’m also cognisant that we’re living through a time where inflation is high. That’s having an impact on household and families’ bills. I don’t want to add that. I want to make it easier.”
The ICE ban, arguably the biggest policy change to hit the automotive industry to date, would mean only hybrid and electric cars would be allowed to be sold from 2030, with sales becoming EV-only from 2035.
The move has also been adopted by the European Union.
When asked about his commitment to the ban – which was three years ago brought forward from 2040 to 2030 as part of an effort to accelerate the government’s 2050 net zero target – Sunak said: “Of course net zero is important to me. So, yes, we’re going to keep making progress towards our net zero ambitions and we’re also going to strengthen our energy security.”
But he said other avenues should be explored too. “I think the events over the last year or two have demonstrated the importance of investing more in home-grown energy, whether that’s more nuclear or offshore wind. I think that’s what people want to see and that’s what I’m going to deliver.”
The PM's comment in July came just days after JLR owners Tata confirmed plans to build a £4 billion battery factory in Somerset.
Speaking to Autocar, JLR boss Adrian Mardell doesn't believe a change in policy on 2030 will impact JLR's strategy as "the plans have been set and are clear".
He added: "The reality is they were set more than two years ago and the plans will stay the same even if conversations are going on [about changing the 2030 date].
“Aston Martin exemption” to 2030 ban
The government is also contemplating an "Aston Martin exemption" to the car sales deadline, reports the Times, which would mean low-volume car makers would be given longer to switch to electric vehicles.
This follows Autocar’s report in February that European Union law makers had confirmed these 'niche' manufacturers may continue to sell ICE cars in the EU after the 2035 ban (when mainland Europe will also go EV-only).
Manufacturers that register fewer than 1000 cars annually will be exempt from the ban.
This is something also being considered by the UK government. Back in February, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport told Autocar it didn't rule out the prospect that this could be included.
Rishi Sunak’s car ban comments criticised
The prime minister's comments in July that hinted that ban could be pushed back have been criticised by members of the automotive industry
One of those is the body that represents the UK’s electric charge point operators.
ChargeUK said its members have “committed over £6 billion to roll out EV infrastructure in all parts of the UK at an unprecedented rate” as part of the ZEV mandate.
This has “created good, sustainable jobs, supporting the switch to EVs and thereby reducing emissions and improving air quality for all”.
It added: “If the government fails to stand firm to its commitments, this investment and the supply of EVs entering the market will be at risk.
“ChargeUK members are already providing the infrastructure to support the electrification of transport and to usher in a cleaner future. ChargeUK members are committed to making the UK the best place to own and charge an EV and key to that is having the right charging infrastructure in the right place."
Another to launch heavy criticism was Instavolt, who called the comments "completely unacceptable."
It said: “These pledges and their outcomes will provide tangible improvements and help clean up dirty air. We know these policies aren’t always easy to deliver on, but they are integral to the delivery of sustainable transport in polluting cities and towns.
"Without government advocacy and support, consumer confidence will continue to dwindle when we need it most. The government said they would 'Build Back Green": these rumblings fly in the face of these pledges.”
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