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Ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans

03 August, 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

We support the proposed policy change of bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035 or, earlier.

The UK Government has been seeking views on bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible.

A joint UKERC/CREDS consultation response was submitted on 31st July where we provided views on the following aspects:

  1. the phase out date,
  2. the definition of what should be phased out,
  3. barriers to achieving the above proposals,
  4. the impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society, and
  5. what measures are required by government and others to achieve the earlier phase out date.

The phase out date

A phase out date of ‘2035 or earlier’ is sensible yet it might not be enough. The research, recently published in the journal Energy Policy, has found that neither existing transport policies nor the pledge to bring forward the phase out the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles by 2035 or 2040 are sufficient to hit carbon reduction targets or make the early gains needed to meet the net zero targets for cars and vans.

The definition of what should be phased out

The research has shown that deeper and earlier reductions in carbon emissions and local air pollution would be achieved by a more ambitious, but largely non-disruptive change to a 2030 ‘phase out’ that includes all fossil fuel vehicles. This would include all vehicles with an internal combustion engine, whether ‘self-charging’ or not.

However, only the earlier phase outs combined with lower demand for mobility and car ownership would make significant contributions to an emissions pathway that is both Paris compliant and meets legislated carbon budgets and urban air quality limits.

Barriers to achieving the proposals

The proposed policy will involve high levels of coordination, intention and buy-in by policy makers, business and wider civil society.

By far the biggest barrier to change will be the incumbent industries – the OEMs. They have a well-known track record of pushing back against EU vehicle regulations on the grounds of cost. In the case of electric powertrains, this push back is evident, with added resistance on the base of restricted supply chains and time to alter production processes. We suggest this is all the more reason to publish and implement a market transformation strategy now so that early wins – which do not rely on supply chains or large transformations to the production line – can mitigate against any later genuine supply-side constraints.

The impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society

UKERC research into various phase-out policies has looked at how ‘disruptive’ they would be for key stakeholders of the transport-energy system, and how much coordination would be needed to achieve the policy goals. This research has shown that in the ‘Road-to-Zero’ ICE phase out by 2040 the main actors of the road transport and energy system are unlikely to undergo disruptive change. This is due to the relatively slow and limited evolution of the fleet towards ‘unconventional’ low carbon fuels, the continuation of fuel duty revenue streams well into the 2040s and little additional reductions in energy demand and air pollutant emissions.

However, in the earlier (2030) and stricter (in what constitutes an ultra-low carbon vehicle) ‘phase-outs’ we can expect some disruption for technology providers, industry and business – in particular vehicle manufacturers, global production networks, the maintenance and repair sector as well as the oil & gas industry.

What measures are required by government and others to achieve the earlier phase out date

Ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans earlier, coupled with the electrification of road transport should form a key part of long term decarbonisation policy, but it is not a panacea.

First, an earlier phase out date of 2030 implies we have 10 years to plan for and implement a transition away from fossil-fuel ICE cars and vans. As we discussed in our response, our research suggests that this is achievable without significant disruption to the transport-energy system, but it needs to be linked to accelerated investment in charging networks and battery development and deployment. We also need to address the short term, as suggested earlier.

Second, research has shown multiple times that further and earlier policy measures that impact the transport-energy system are needed, including access bans in urban areas and regulation to reduce the availability and sale of ‘unnecessarily’ high-emitting cars (see above).

Conclusion

We support bringing the phase-out date forward and urge it to be earlier than 2035 and include phasing out any non-zero tailpipe vehicles using a market transformation approach. We strongly believe Government has a crucial role to play in leading the way to decarbonize transport, going well beyond the proposed policy change of bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035 or earlier.

Read the consultation response in full.

Banner photo credit: Louis Reed on Unsplash

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