Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday afternoon confirmed he has postponed the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035 to ease the financial burden on Britons.
Announcing his changes to the previous net zero policy, he said: ‘I expect that by 2030 that the vast majority of cars sold will be electric. Why? Because the costs are reducing, the range is improving, the charging infrastructure is growing.
‘People are already choosing electric vehicles to such an extent that we’re registering a new one every 60 seconds.
‘But I also think that, at least for now, it should be you, the consumer, that makes that choice, not government forcing you to do it.
‘Because the upfront cost still us high, especially for families struggling with the cost of living. Small businesses are worried about the practicalities. and we’re got further to go to get the charging infrastructure truly nationwide.
‘And we need to strengthen our own auto industry so we aren’t reliant on heavily-subsidies carbon-intensive imports from counties like China.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today confirmed the UK’s proposed ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be pushed back from 2030 to 2035. The move has sparked outrage from the motor industry. Here is how the sector reacted to the decision
He continued: ‘So to give us more time to prepare, I’m announcing today that we’re going to ease the transition to electric vehicles.
‘You’ll still be able to buy petrol and diesel cars and vans until 2035. Even after that, you will still be able to buy and sell them second hand.
‘We’re aligning our approach with counties like Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Canada. Sweden, and US states such as California, New York and Massachusetts, and still ahead of the rest of America and other countries like New Zealand.’
The delay to the deadline for sales of new fossil fuel cars has sparked a wave of frustrated responses from within the automotive industry.
The move to water down ambitious targets set out by former PM Boris Johnson in 2020 has reportedly sparked a major row among Tory MPs but also fury from vehicle manufacturers who have already sunk billions of pounds into accelerating their electric vehicle (EV) plans in order to meet the 2030 target.
Other businesses and commentators from within the electric vehicle sector have voiced their concerns too.
Here’s what’s been said in response to Mr Sunak’s announcement…
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said the trade body had been told on Monday that the 2030 ban was going ahead as planned
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT which represents UK car makers, said the trade body was told only on Monday that the 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel models was going ahead as planned.
In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, he said: ‘The automotive industry has and continues to invest billions in new electric vehicles as the decarbonisation of road transport is essential if net zero is to be delivered.
‘Government has played a key part in bringing some of that investment to the UK, and Britain can – and should – be a leader in zero emission mobility both as a manufacturer and market.
‘To make this a reality, however, consumers must want to make the switch, which requires from Government a clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety.
‘Confusion and uncertainty will only hold them back.’
Lisa Brankin of Ford UK said the car firm had invested millions into its development and manufacturing facilities to meet the 2030 timeframe
Lisa Brankin, Ford UK chair, said the automotive industry has been ‘investing to meet the challenge’ of adhering to the UK Government’s announced ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales from 2030 and a U-turn by the PM will undermine this.
‘Ford has announced a global $50billion commitment to electrification, launching nine electric vehicles by 2025. The range is supported by £430million invested in Ford’s UK development and manufacturing facilities, with further funding planned for the 2030 timeframe,’ Brankin said.
‘This is the biggest industry transformation in over a century and the UK 2030 target is a vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future.
‘Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.
‘We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost-of-living is high.’
Like Ford, VW has issued a frustrated response to the delay to the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars.
‘We urgently need a clear and reliable regulatory framework which creates market certainty and consumer confidence,’ Volkswagen Group UK said.
‘Binding targets for infrastructure rollout and incentives are required to ensure the direction of travel.’
Stellantis earlier this month began building electric vans and MPVs at the Ellesmere Port factory where it has invested £100m to convert it to an EV-only production facility
Stellantis (parent group of Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall)
Stellantis, the parent group of major car brands including Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall, only this month began production of electric vehicles at the UK’s first EV-only MPV and van plant in Ellesmere Port following a £100million investment from the business.
In response to today’s news, a spokesperson for the company said governments must provide clarity on ‘important legislation, especially environmental issues that impact society as a whole’.
Bosses at Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s vehicle company Ineos Automotive said the delay should open the door to look at alternatives to EVs to meet net zero targets. This includes hydrogen fuel cells, which is has promised for its Grenadier SUV (pictured left)
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s vehicle brand, Ineos Automotive
Not every vehicle manufacturer was entirely against the delay to the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and said it opened the doors for the sector to look beyond only battery electric drivetrains.
Lynn Calder, CEO at Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Automotive, said: ‘2035 is a more realistic target for consumers to switch to net zero vehicles and will allow the industry to meet the challenge.’
She said the target is made harder by the current singular focus on EVs as there is a real risk that that we will fail and that it will be more expensive for consumers, with the whole industry competing for finite resources such as the lithium crucial for batteries.
‘EVs are an important part of the mix, but we believe betting only on one technology will limit options and stifle innovation,’ she explained.
‘There is a mix of solutions for the widescale energy transition required to achieve net zero, and with cars it will be the same. We need support for other technologies such as hydrogen and alternative fuels in the same way these alternatives are being supported by other countries.’
National Franchised Dealers Association
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association
Sue Robinson chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents car and commercial retailers across the UK, said Mr Sunak’s decision is ‘unsurprising’ and warned the change in policy will ‘likely create further uncertainty for the industry’.
However, she added that the move to 2035 now aligns the UK automotive industry with the EU, its ‘largest international trading partner, and automotive dealers support this’.
When the NFDA surveyed its members in August 2023, 60 per cent of respondents supported an alignment with the EU to push back the 2030 ban to 2035.
Motoring group, RAC
RAC head of policy Simon Williams said the announcement risks ‘slowing down both the momentum the motor industry has built up in switching to electric powertrains and ultimately the uptake of electric vehicles’.
He said there’s ‘no reason’ why the Government can’t re-introduce incentives like the now-defunct Plug-in Car Grant to help make EVs more affordable.
‘It’s also not at all clear how rolling back from 2030 is compatible with the Government’s zero-emission vehicle mandate which was due to set targets for manufacturers’ EV sales from next year.
‘It’s perhaps telling that ministers have yet to respond to the consultation on this that closed in May.’
Used car sales platform, AutoTrader
AutoTrader’s Ian Plummer described the move as a ‘hugely retrograde step which puts politics ahead of net zero goals’
Ian Plummer, commercial director of AutoTrader, described the decision as a ‘hugely retrograde step which puts politics ahead of net zero goals’.
He told us: ‘This U-turn will cause a huge headache for manufacturers, who are crying out for clarity and consistency, and it is hardly going to encourage the vast majority of drivers who are yet to buy an electric car to make the switch.
‘Rather than grasp the challenge and use the tax system to ease concerns over affordability, the Prime Minister has taken the easy option with one eye on polling day.’
He added: ‘The PM has left the industry and drivers high and dry by sacrificing the 2030 target on the altar of political advantage.
According to AutoTrader’s own research, only half of people could see how an EV could fit into their lifestyle as it is, suggesting major barriers to adoption.
‘We should be positively addressing concerns over affordability and charging rather than planting seeds of doubt,’ he said.
‘The 2030 target itself in no way forced UK consumers to pay more as affordable petrol and diesel vehicles will be readily available in the used market for years to come, this announcement has only served to remove trust and confidence in the UK market.’
Petrol Retailers’ Association
Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers’ Association in Britain, said its members have been doing all they can to improve charging infrastructure for the nation’s EV owners but has hit a roadblock in terms of Government support.
‘The Prime Minister’s announcement today reflects the reality of the delays in meeting infrastructure targets. The widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the UK can’t be realistically achieved without the corresponding charging network to accommodate it,’ he said.
‘Delays in infrastructure targets and questions around alternative methods of tax to compensate for the loss of fuel duty revenue and VAT have cast a shadow over the 2030 deadline.’
He added: ‘The PRA has consistently argued that the ban on new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2030 is a date without a plan and we hope the movement of the date to 2035 will allow us to continue to work with the Government on a sensible strategy to decarbonise transport.’
Transport policy and research group, RAC Foundation
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, has estimated that if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction obligations then at least 37 per cent of all miles driven by cars, taxis and vans will need to be zero emission by 2030.
However, with only 844,000 of the 33million or so cars on the UK roads today being pure battery electric, he says the nation has ‘a mountain to climb’.
Mr Gooding added: ‘It is hard to understand the rationale for the Prime Minister’s decision to delay the ban on sale of petrol and diesel cars by five years – what message does taking his foot off the gas in this way send to an auto industry that was confident of its ability to hit the 2030 deadline on the basis of a clear and consistent regulatory regime?
‘Be they motorists or not, taxpayers might wonder how back-pedalling on the switch to electric cars can be consistent with the Government having put huge sums of public money on the table to support battery production.’
Audit specialists, KPMG
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s postponement for the ban on sales of ICE cars in the UK, Richard Peberdy, head of automotive for KPMG, said delaying the deadline will allow for more time to transition to EVs but is causing other ‘big concerns’ in the automotive industry.
This is namely its impact on ‘manufacturers’ investment plans, the consumer desire to transition to EVs, and the certainty that business can have in the new deadline’.
Finance & Leasing Association
Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech today, Stephen Haddrill, director general of the Finance & Leasing Association, said it will offer businesses that relied in good faith on the original 2030 deadline ‘millions of pounds of mis-directed or mis-timed investment’ in a scathing assessment of the five-year delay.
‘As for the wholesale funders who provided that finance for firms, regaining their trust will be an uphill battle,’ he added.
‘Delivering net zero requires business and public confidence in policy – that is being squandered.’
Gill Nowell, Head of EV communications at insurer LV, said rolling back the ban on new sales of petrol and diesel cars ‘risks the UK’s position as a world leader on electric vehicles’.
She believes the nation is ‘on the cusp of making real headway in our transition to net zero tailpipe emissions for road transport’ but today’s move will damage consumer appetite.
Green transport think tank, Transport & Environment
‘Allowing an extra five years of sales of petrol and diesel cars blows a massive hole in any serious attempt to get to net zero emissions by 2050,’ according to a statement issued by UK director of Transport & Environment UK, Richard Hebditch.
‘The sudden abandonment of long-held policy will send shockwaves across industries that we need to get greenhouse gas emissions to zero – the automotive industry being just one,’ he added.
‘Car and van manufacturers, battery suppliers and gigafactories, as well as charging station providers have all been planning for the 2030 phase-out. Now, their plans will be up in the air yet again, creating chaos and uncertainty. The future of the country and the climate deserves better.’
New and used car sales platform, Carwow
Sally Foote, UK Managing Director at carwow, said: ‘The decision to push the ban back by five years will leave many feeling frustrated and – rightly – calling for clarity, support and an assurance that the goalposts won’t move again.’
She said the transition to EVs has been undermined and ‘risks sending the message that going green isn’t that important’.
She went on: ‘At a time when we’re all adjusting to new policies like the expansion of clean air zones across the country, this decision only adds further confusion when greater stability is what’s needed.’
Electric car think tank, New AutoMotive
Ben Nelmes, CEO of think tank, New AutoMotive, said the five-year delay in switching to EVs will set Britain back in the global race to develop green industries, describing Mr Sunak’s announcement as ‘a huge own goal’ by the Government.
‘He is right to say that electric car prices are dropping and charging infrastructure is improving – but this is thanks to the industry investing billions of pounds working towards the 2030 target.
‘Pushing the date back will raise costs for motorists by deterring future investment in the UK EV industry and supply chain,’ he warned.
Electrifying.com founder Ginny Buckley (pictured) accused Mr Sunak of ‘behaving like her teenage son’ by pushing aside tough decision he will need to deal with at a later date
Specialist electric car website, Electrifying.com
Founder and CEO of Electrifying.com Ginny Buckley said the Prime Minister is ‘behaving like my teenage son’ by ‘pushing aside the tough stuff to get it done later’.
She added: ‘Putting the brakes on the ban is a big mistake; by turning this into a political issue and kicking the can down the road he’s creating uncertainty for the car industry and the wider ecosystem, which is collectively planning to invest billions of pounds into the transition.’
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