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Government brings forward target to end sales of combustion engine cars to 2035

Tue 04 February 2020 | Back to news list

The Government has announced that it plans to bring forward the ending of the sale of combustion engine cars and vans in the UK from 2040 to 2035. Making the announcement at the launch of the UN Climate Summit - which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November - the Government also confirmed that the proposals include ending the sale of all hybrid vehicles. It says that the deadline may be earlier if a faster transition is feasible, subject to consultation. 

In confirming the plans, the Government said it "will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero emissions vehicles - helping to deliver new green jobs in the UK".

In 2018 the Government had announced plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 onwards as part of the Road to Zero Strategy, but it called for all new vehicles to be ‘effectively zero emission’ leaving the detail open to some debate. With the legal commitment in 2019 to Net Zero by 2050, that debate is now over, and it’s just the date in question.

The Government is suggesting that the 2035 ban could be brought forward - subject to a consultation - “if a faster transition was possible”. Some stakeholders have called for the ban to be introduced by 2030 at the latest.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This Government’s £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working - last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes.

"We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions."

Autocar reports that a total of 37,850 battery-electric vehicles were sold in the UK last year. While that number was a 144% increase on 2018, it still represented just 1.6% of the total UK car market. By comparison, 1,498,640 petrol-engined cars were sold (64.8% of the total market) and 583,488 diesels (25.2%). 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says that there are 60 plug-in models now on the market and that 34 more are expected in 2020. 

The number of electric vehicles sold is expected to increase sharply in coming years, partly driven by EU regulations which mandate all manufacturers to achieve a new car fleet average of 95g CO2/km by 2020/1 with super-credits for plug-in car sales enabling car makers to avoid steep fines.

LowCVP viewpoint

Commenting on today's announcement, LowCVP Managing Director Andy Eastlake says: “We welcome the Government’s proposals to bring forward the target for the ending of the sale of IC-engine cars from 2040 to 2035. The target will be challenging for industry and drivers, but if we are to meet the 2050 net zero commitment we must raise our level of ambition in road transport.

"The intent from Government is to give some real clarity on this target and to really gather the widest views before responding in the summer

"With this in mind, we believe that in this proposal ‘zero means zero’; the desire is for all new cars and vans to emit nothing under all circumstances as soon as feasible.  The timing is what we need to pin down.  Clearly this will present a number of challenges, but also opportunities."

“Latest information on the fall in battery prices points to electric vehicles achieving price parity with conventional cars within the next five years. But there are already very significant fuel and other cost savings for EV drivers so switching is already a good financial proposition for many.

"In simple terms for the typical driver the aim is that your next car should have a plug, and the one after that should have no engine!

“However, there’s a big job to be done; by the manufacturers in switching over production facilities over a short time-scale and by organisations like LowCVP and others in making sure drivers, the energy system and key market players are fully prepared for the electric transition.

“This shortened target will heighten ambition and focus minds to meet the challenges ahead.”

STOP PRESS: Due to the Covid-19 crisis on 9 April 2020 the Government announced that this consultation is to be extended until 11:45pm on 31 July 2020.

Views are being sought 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".

Government is asking for views on:

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

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