Reports: Government to pull forward ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030

Speculation mounting government will pull forward date following assurances a rapid shift to plug in vehicles would not overwhelm the UK electricity grid

The UK government is set to bring forward its ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2030, according to this morning’s Guardian, which reports that Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement on the move in the coming weeks.

The government had hoped to announce the plans this week but delayed the move to focus on tackling rising Covid cases, the paper reported, citing sources from within the energy and transport industries.

A 2030 deadline would put the UK ahead of France, which plans to adopt a 2040 deadline, and in line with Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands, which have opted for an earlier date for the phasing out of conventional cars and vans.

The government earlier this year held a consultation on plans to pull the ban forward to 2035 or earlier. But Ministers are understood to have settled on the more ambitious 2030 goal after being assured that the UK’s infrastructure will be able to cope.

In August 2020, the government’s official advisory body the Committee on Climate Change said the ban should be brought forwards to “at least 2032”, while a growing number of corporates, including oil majors BP and Shell, have signalled they would support a 2030 date. 

Graeme Cooper, the director in charge of National Grid’s electric vehicle project, told the Guardian that fears over the electricity grid’s capacity to cope had been overstated and that it was “confident that a faster transition is possible.” National Grid has estimated that electrifying all road transport – excluding heavy goods vehicles – would require less than a third more power than Great Britain’s current demand of around 3000 terawatt hours, “which the grid could easily cope with,” Cooper told the Guardian.

“However, some targeted investment will be needed to ensure there are appropriate places where drivers can access sufficient high power charging away from home,” he added.

The reports follow a volley of calls for the government to move the date to 2030. Last week, Greenpeace and Green Alliance published a report concluding that any later date could result in the UK missing its target to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. The report called the phasing out of polluting vehicles by 2030 “the single most important measure” the government could take to ensure it remains on track to meets its own net zero goal.

Labour also reiterated its pre-election call for a 2030 ban, with the party’s climate change spokesperson Matthew Pennycook saying it was an “ambitious but achievable date” which would “give a new lease of life to uk car industry, while combating climate breakdonwn and cleaning up the air that dangerously pollutes so many of our towns and cities.”

Earlier in the same week, oil giant BP urged the government to accelerate the ban to 2030. EV charging infrastructure has been among the focal points of BP’s development as the firm seeks to diversify away from oil and gas: it operates one of the larget charging networks in the country, Polar, and also manufacturers its own EV chargers under the BP Chargemaster brand. BP’s biggest rival, Shell, has also called a 2030 ban “the right policy”.

The anticipated new date for ending the sale of polluting cars and vans would form one of the centrepieces of an autumn that is expected to see a raft of new climate policy measures.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed last week the government’s long-awaited energy white paper, which will underpin its legally binding target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, will be published this autumn. Meanwhile, reports have suggested Number10 is keen to launch a major new support package for the UK’s nascent hydrogen industry.

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