In Depth

Petrol and diesel car ban: what you need to know

Government brings forward deadline to 2035 in bid to boost electric vehicle sales

The sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles will be banned in the UK from 2035, bringing forward the original cut-off date by five years.

Experts had warned that the previous target of 2040 would be too late if Britain is to reach its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.

Boris Johnson is unveiling the policy shift today at an event previewing the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26), a United Nations climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November.

Why has the plan changed?

The ban was first announced in 2017, but environmental campaign groups argued that the proposed cut-off date was not early enough.

Following warnings from a number of experts that old cars would still be on the roads after the 2050 zero-carbon goal date, the Government has decided to bring forward the deadline to 2035, or even earlier if possible. 

The advisory Committee on Climate Change has called for a ban by as early as 2030.

Commenting on the timetable revision, Mike Childs, of environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, said: “A new 2035 target will still leave the UK in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere.” 

Which vehicles are affected?

All new cars that produce any emissions will be affected.

Under the Government’s original “Road to Zero” strategy, the continued sale of new ultra-low emission vehicles – including hybrids and plug-in hybrids – that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 would have been allowed, says Autocar.

However, the revised plan will ban the sale of any new vehicle that is not zero emissions. Based on current technology, only electric and hydrogen vehicles will be available for purchase legally after the ban comes into effect.

Second-hand sales of vehicles manufactured before 2035 will still be allowed.

Is the ban realistic?

AA president Edmund King has warned that the 2035 target may be tough to meet. “Drivers support measures to clean up air quality and reduce CO2 emissions but these stretched targets are incredibly challenging,” he said.

A total of 37,850 new battery-only electric vehicles were sold in the UK last year, a 144% increase on 2018, but those sales still account for just 1.6% of the total UK car market.

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that diesel registrations fell by 21.8% to 583,488 in 2019, but still made up 25.2% of the market.

Petrol cars dominate the sector, with a 64.8% share. A total of 1,498,640 petrol-engined vehicles were sold last year, an annual increase of 2.2%.

Despite those sales figures, car manufacturers have invested heavily in electric vehicle technology, and the Government has pushed a number of policies to promote their uptake. From April this year, there will be no company car tax on electric vehicles.

“The fleet sector has a lot of pent-up demand, and this tax incentive could lead to a big surge in EVs,” Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, told Autocar.

Along with such incentives, reduced upfront costs for electric vehicle drivers and improvements to the charging infrastructure are expected to massively boost sales in the coming years.

Confirming the new 2035 deadline, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes. We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.”


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