Hybrids included in 2035 ban
The original announcement in 2017 that HM Government is to ban new petrol/diesel cars and vans sales followed similar statements by our neighbours on the continent. At the time, it generated headlines to convince the public that its leaders were doing something about CO2 emissions from road transport when, in reality, the issue was kicked into the long grass at a time when the administration was grappling with more immediate priorities. As with any soundbite that lacks defined strategy, the devil is in the detail and today, we received an update.
Is history repeating itself?
The most interesting development (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-launches-un-climate-summit-in-the-uk) is not the internal combustion engine ban for new cars and vans being reduced by five years but ‘Hybrid’ vehicles (including PHEVs, as pictured) being barred as well. Originally, hybrids were excluded from the ‘original’ 2017 statement, buried in the small print. Tellingly, the state’s Plug-In Hybrid Grant is planned to end in 60 days’ time…
While the latest announcement is only at the consultation stage, the government seems to be facing a lose-lose public relations situation. Certain environmentalists (such as Friends of the Earth) argue that the ban needs to be implemented sooner, while the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) is concerned that the measure is too draconian, not only for its members but also for consumers, now that the ‘goalposts have been moved.’
Quite reasonably, the UK motor industry cites that market transition is needed, rather than just industry investment alone, and highlights that the UK’s EV charging network remains inadequate. The SMMT also calls for the government to reveal its plans and calls for them not to undermine sales of today’s low emissions technologies.
The wider picture
Yet, is a blanket ‘ban’ too autocratic? Surely a more reasonable and democratic alternative is to create a suitable environment in which electric and hydrogen vehicles can flourish. Combustion engines can then be slain by market forces that involve consumer choice.
One way is to foster the ‘Good Life’ and give each household the opportunity to generate, store and release self-generated energy via their car. Perhaps, EVs could offer us all the chance to be real-world ‘Toms and Barbaras’, which would increase energy use from renewable sources (excluding nuclear), while decreasing household energy costs. It could all be incredibly beneficial for the environment and our wallets.
By the time 2035 arrives, the current administration is unlikely to be in power, so are the challenges and expectations of fifteen years’ time going to be somebody else’s problem? Can we trust whomever calculates the UK’s CO2 emissions not to fudge the figures and not undermine public trust in the whole policy? We do not have those answers but we look forward to hearing more about this development as further details emerge later this year. Meanwhile, we also anticipate receiving details of the Department for Transport’s ‘decarbonisation of transport strategy’, which is expected to be launched next week.