The UK government has formally announced its much-anticipated plan to ban the sale of combustion engine years by the year 2030, as part of a broader ‘ten point plan’ for a ‘green industrial revolution’. Though the broader policy focuses on jobs, technology, investment and industry, the transport component is substantial, and brings forward a ban set less than a year ago for 2040 to the year 2030, making this policy a stark and imminent reality for UK companies and consumers alike.
The announcement comes only hours afer a new alliance between Tesla, Rivian and Uber was announced in Washington, named “Zeta 2030“, targeting 100% electric vehicle sales as market share by 2030. The move has been spurred by the breaking of the alliance between US utilities and fossil fuel companies, with the former turning to electric vehicles in response to that falling out, writes The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer.
These new 2030 ambitions come at a time when the growth of zero emissions vehicles in the UK is increasing, but at a rate that is too slow for the country to be on track to hit emissions targets. The market share of electric vehicles in new car sales grew from 0.9% in 2019 to 4.6% in 2020. At this rate of growth, it would be another 25 years before EVs came to dominate new car sales. This has brought the attention of an active policy to ban the sale of combustion engines to the attention of climate policymakers and climate groups.
Recently, Greenpeace UK released a study by Cambridge Econometrics that found that establishing a 2030 date for an fossil-fuelled vehicle sales ban would create 32,000 new jobs within ten years, and increase GDP by 0.2%, due to increased economic activity and new industries spurred by the policy. A September analysis also by Greenpeace found that “The 2030 phase out of all new internal combustion engine and hybrid cars and vans is the single most important measure the government can take to get the UK on track to meeting its existing carbon targets”, and that net zero by 2050 could not be acheived without a 2030 ban on combustion and hybrid vehicle sales.
“We’ll invest more than £2.8bn in electric vehicles, lacing the land with charging points and creating long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories”, says UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as reported in the Financial Times. “This will allow us to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030. However, we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035”.
The most recent Greenpeace report into a UK 2030 combustion engine ban found that the increase in economy activity and employment from a 2030 ban is due to “lower demand for imported fossil fuels; the improved efficiency of electric vehicles (and lower tax rates), [which] results in lower overall costs of mobility, and as a result higher consumer spending on electricity (for fuel) and other consumer goods and services”. However the report also higlights the need for associated construction of charging infrastructure, with 1.2 million workplace, 240,000 slow public (3-22 kilowatt) and 62,000 rapid public (more than 50 kilowatts) charge point, in additon to 13 million home charge points, with seven billion pounds more investment required in this compared to a 2035 ban.
In the scenario of a 2030 ban, the UK’s vehicle stock continues to gradually change as all cars are replaced with zero emissions alternatives, in the modelling. Thus, while in 2030 new combustion engine vehicles cannot be purchased, fossil fuel cars still comprise half of all cars in the UK.
Johnson’s announcement has been met with a mix of praise and criticism from broad corners. London Aseembly Member Caroline Russell said on Twitter that “If Johnson brings forward the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars to 2030, then we need loads of investment in electric public transport and safe conditions for walking and cycling for local journeys. We can’t just replace existing ICE cars with EVs”, linking the new policy to broader changes required in transport policy. Other were less constructive, with notorious conservative and climate skeptic Nigel Farage saying “Has Boris Johnson forgotten who his voters are?”.
The UK’s Automotive Association (AA) placed pressure on the government to focus on charge points, with a finding that one in six councils have established on-street EV charging distributed to the UK press. The 2030 plan has also raised the spectre of changes to taxation for road users, with UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak considering a road usage charge instead of taxation on purchases and fuel use. This is a stark contrast to recent policies in NSW and South Australia, both planning new taxation for electric vehicles, in a move widely criticised as over-simplistic. Much attention will be on the UK and how it manages these new debates.
Johnson has been under increasing pressure to announce more details on the country’s net zero by 2050 target. Today’s “ten point” plan includes money for carbon capture projects, hydrogen, offshore wind, new nuclear power stations and greater incentives for energy efficiency and low-carbon boilers. The UK is set to host COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, which is serving as a target point for a flurry of new climate ambitions and policies currently being announced, and likely to be announced over the coming months before the significant global meeting.
Ketan Joshi has been at the forefront of clean energy for eight years, starting out as a data analyst working in wind energy, and expanding that knowledge base to community engagement, climate science and new energy technology. He writes for The Driven’s parent site, RenewEconomy, and has also written for the Guardian, The Monthly, ABC News and has penned several hundred blog posts digging into climate and energy issues, building a position as a respected and analytical energy commentator in Australia. He’s spoken at the Ethics Centre IQ2 debates on the need for urgent decarbonisation, he’s served as an subject matter expert on national television, and has a wide following on social media around energy and climate.