The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the revised deadline, brought five years forward from its initial 2040 date, at a launch event for COP 26 – the UN’s annual climate summit. The change comes after the initial deadline drew criticism from experts for its proximity to 2050, the year the government plans to have achieved net-zero carbon emissions by. Prior to this announcement, the Prime Minister suggested that the deadline could be adjusted to an even earlier date “if a faster transition is feasible”.
In addition to the new deadline, the government announced that the ban would now include all hybrid vehicles. While hybrids were originally exempt from the ban based on their low carbon emissions, the change comes as no surprise as the EU tightens their emission targets for the future. Their 2021 target, phased in earlier this year, aims for the average emission across the continent to be 95g CO2/km. Then, based on 2021’s emission levels, the EU have established another target for carbon emission, for carbon emissions from new cars to decrease by 37.5% by 2030. By aligning its deadline closely with the EU’s, and banning the sale of hybrids to reduce emissions, the UK government looks to be meeting the needs of the EU’s targets as well as their own.
Furthermore, incorporating all hybrid vehicles into the ban will direct new car sales towards pure-EVs. The amended legislation looks set to boost the EV market, which saw an increase of 144% in sales in 2019, when compared to 2018, with nearly 38,000 EVs sold. Although these statistics appear to show increasing adoption of EVs, they only make up 2% of the market, while petrol and diesel vehicles make up 90%.
The government’s changes to the legislation have been met with a mixed reception from key players in the automotive industry. Those criticizing the five-year move have expressed concerns that it could be too early for the industry as the technology behind pure-EVs is still costly, especially as they only make up a fraction of total car sales. There are further concerns that the inclusion of hybrid vehicles in the ban undermines their popularity and adoption in recent years, both qualities the industry say are significant in reducing emissions in tow with the low emission technology seen in hybrids.
On the other hand, others in the industry have said that the government’s goal is achievable and is already being worked towards. Those in favor of the move cited the second-hand market seeing increased consumer interest for pure-EVs. Additionally, carmakers themselves have publicly expressed their commitment to producing and selling a range of EVs. For instance, Volvo recently announced its target to put a million electrified cars on the road and for 50% of its sales to come from pure-EVs by 2025.