Now that he’s won an election and got Brexit done – well, delivered Britain to an 11-month transition period, during which time its future relationship with the European Union will be negotiated – Boris Johnson is getting on with other policies. And he’s started by going back to one of the policies of the Theresa May era – the petrol and diesel ban.
Road to zero
You may remember the Road to Zero report that was published in July 2018. This strategy document set out an ambition to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, along with some measures to help us get there. It also contained some intermediary targets, including having 50% of new car sales be ultra-low emission by 2030, and 40% of new van sales.
A change in target
This is what Boris Johnson has returned to – and changed. In a statement yesterday, he confirmed that the government intends to bring forward the date for the petrol and diesel ban to 2035. And it will now include hybrid vehicles, too. It is, as yet, unknown what this means for the intermediary targets; although presumably they will also be brought forward or otherwise made more ambitious.
It should be said that the 2035 date is not a foregone conclusion. The Prime Minister’s proposal is now going out to consultation, rather than being written straight into law. Nor is it a surprise: the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, raised the possibility during his speech to the Conservative party conference last October.
Working towards 2035
In any case, 2035 is now what we, as motorists and fleet professionals, should be working towards. LeasePlan welcomes this change. Such ambition is required if the UK is to achieve the bigger, broader ambition of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.
But there’s no point pretending that 2035 won’t be a challenge. 15 years is not a long time to deliver such a monumental change to the country’s motoring habits. Particularly when you consider that alternatively fuelled cars currently account for just 8% of all new sales – and many of those are hybrids.
The government will need to follow through on its rhetoric with sustained investment in the country’s charging infrastructure. It will also need to debunk many of the myths that surround electric motoring.
And fleets will have to think through their own policies and prepare for change. The 2035 ban isn’t the only measure that’s nudging us all into greener vehicles; over the next few years, everything from Clean Air Zones to the new rates of Company Car Tax will do likewise.
Matthew Walters, Head of Consultancy and Customer Data Services, LeasePlan UK
“Though it’s a challenging ambition, it is one we are fully in support of. The next step from the Government now has to be putting a strong robust plan in place to make sure this target is achievable. It needs to focus on supporting manufacturers to ensure that supply meets demand, especially as we are due to leave the EU and will cease to be a contributor to its emissions targets by the end of the year. It must also prioritise educating the public to debunk the many myths around the move to electric that are out there. The complexities around a lack of infrastructure and range anxiety, for example, need to be addressed if we are to bring drivers on the journey.
“Above all, we must do all we can to get there as quickly as possible. There is a still a way to go, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
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