2040 petrol and diesel 'ban': Now UK Government says there's still a role for diesel

Diesel cars will, after all, be recommended to at least some car buyers in a forthcoming Government report that"s expected to outline how vehicles powered by pure combustion engines will be outlawed from 2040.

Dubbed Road to Zero, the forthcoming rules will prohibit the sale of new cars from 2040 that are incapable of travelling for 50 miles or more on battery power alone. This could outline conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, as well as regular petrol and diesel cars.

However, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, has now suggested that the Road to Zero report will include an acknowledgement that, for the time being at least, diesel power still makes sense for some buyers. His advice is in stark contrast to that of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who said last year that motorists should "think twice" before buying another diesel car.


Speaking at the FT Future of the Car Summit, Clark said, "I think it’s important to say that new-generation diesel engines can make big contribution to reducing our emissions. I would expect the contribution of the higher standards of efficiency and emissions performance of diesel engines to continue to drive improvements in air quality and our greenhouse gas performance. It would be the wrong decision for people to think that holding onto an existing diesel vehicle rather than upgrading to a much more environmentally friendly new one is a good step for the planet. We will, throughout our report, stress that.

"There’s a place for diesel vehicles and there will be for some time to come," Clark added. "If you’re driving a diesel-powered car long distances then that’s a very different impact than in the city. So we need to make sure people make the right choices for the environment and for their own use. What we’ll set out in the report we’re going to publish is how different choices may be right for different people in different circumstances."

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Clark"s comments are likely to ramp up pressure on the Government to bring forward the release of its report, snapshots of which have been widely leaked.

While current plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) such as the Audi A3 e-tron can only travel around 30 miles on a single charge, it is likely PHEV standards will have improved enough to meet the 50-mile target by 2040.

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles, or AFVs – essentially hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen cars – currently only make up 5.6 per cent of new car sales, but numbers are rising rapidly. Last month they increased in popularity by almost 50 per cent.

Government officials have yet to confirm the new 50-mile rule, but the Financial Times reports that “three people involved in the decision” have confirmed this detail. The Government’s Transport, Environment and Business departments are all said to be involved in developing the 2040 policy.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “It is categorically untrue that Government is planning to ban the sale of hybrid cars in the UK by 2040. We do not comment on leaked draft documents. The Road to Zero Strategy is yet to be finalised and has not been agreed by Ministers.”

Commenting on the news, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Industry shares government’s goal of zero emission transport and is investing billions in new technologies with nearly 50 different plug-in models already on the market.

Hawes added that car makers will “increasingly offer electrified versions of their vehicles”, but he cautioned: “Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realise this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports.

Hawes said if the UK is to become a world leader in zero-emission transport, the Government must: “Provide a world class package of incentives and support to make this a credible policy.” Hawes added charging infrastructure would need to “sufficient”, while consumers must be given “clear information about the right vehicles for their driving needs”.

Petrol and diesel ban: battle against poor air quality

The Government estimates that poor air quality poses the largest risk to public health in the UK, costing the economy £2.7 billion in lost productivity. To combat the health epidemic, the Government wants to accelerate the uptake of green vehicles across the country.

Local authorities will be able to dip into a £3 billion fund on improving air quality. The air quality package is said to include £290 million towards a national productivity investment fund which will go towards low emissions taxis. 

In addition, councils will also be handed a green bus fund to convert existing public transport, and £1.2billion towards cycling and walking schemes, as well as £100 million to tackle roadside pollution.

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Road infrastructure will also be changing, with £255 million towards changing road layouts such as speed bumps, speed limits and roundabouts, in addition to reprogramming traffic lights. The Government will also invest £100 million towards improving the UK"s charging infrastructure. 

While some will question whether £100 million is enough to bring the UK"s charging infrastructure up to standard by 2040, Chargemaster told Auto Express it believes "the UK"s charging infrastructure will be ready by 2040" to handle a sales ban on petrol and diesel cars. A spokesman told us: "Yes, we will be ready by 2040. The infrastructure is growing rapidly. Five years ago there were around 3,000 public charging points, today there is over 13,000 - and there"s a huge increase in home charging." 

Chargemaster also pointed out that the majority of charging takes place at home. "We see around 100,000 home charging sessions per week, compared to 5,000 public charging sessions." However, for those drivers without access to home charging, Chargemaster says it"s already rolling out 25 rapid charging stations per month and expects this to increase in the future. 

"Though funding from the Government is always welcome, the private sector is taking the lead here and we will be ready by 2040."

However, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that it isn"t enough for just the private sector to contribute. "What is needed is all the different stakeholders [to contribute], Government, manufacturers, distribution networks, energy companies. One of the frustrations for manufacturers [that] have been putting vehicles on the market is that the infrastructure has not kept pace." 

The UK isn"t alone in announcing a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles from 2040. France"s newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, announced a similar ban earlier this month in order to ensure the country is able to meet emissions targets agreed under the Paris climate accord. 

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