Our current campaign – to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 or earlier.
We’re calling on the government to set a legally binding, ambitious target to phase out all sales of cars and vans that run on petrol and diesel, including hybrids, within eleven years. The current ‘ambition’ to phase out sales of fully petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 is far too late to keep to our own legally binding climate change targets, and exposing the UK public, including our children, to toxic air pollution far longer. As the average turnover of a vehicle is 15 years, we need this target to decarbonise transport well ahead of 2050 just to keep to our current climate target, let alone future increases in UK climate action. Having a ban by 2030 at latest will also spur on ambition from the government and industry over the next decade, giving relevant automotive and electricity sector businesses more clarity about the direction of policy. Projections show that such a ban would mean over two thirds of cars and vans on the road would be fully electric by 2030, with an almost complete phase out of fossil fuel powered vehicles by 2035.
Why it’s vital
Cars and vans accounted for 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, nearly a quarter of all CO2 emissions in the UK for that year. With emissions coming down fast in the electricity sector as renewables increase and as coal plants disappear, there is now a need to turn to the largest source of emissions in the UK – transport. The UK is off track to meet its 2025 and 2030 targets, and with limited cuts that can still be made in electricity, and other areas such as aviation, buildings and heavy industry being much harder to reduce emissions from, transport must step up to combat climate change. Current ambitions on low emission vehicles still would see us using petrol and diesel well past 2050, when we have a legal commitment to bring emissions to zero.
40,000 deaths a year are exacerbated by air pollution across the UK. Recent studies have also shown that air pollution affect the most vulnerable members of society such as schoolchildren, the elderly and the disabled. The 2030 ban could reduce air pollution by 68% by the same date, saving lives and improving all our health, as well as saving £300mn in NHS costs.
More electric vehicles means more jobs. Over 100,000 people could be employed in producing electric cars by 2030 if the ban is brought forward. The UK has an existing lead over other European countries in electric vehicle manufacturing, and more ambition could reinvigorate the British car industry. With an earlier phase out date for combustion engines and a clearer direction of travel, this will make it easier for existing jobs to be protected and workers on diesel and petrol engines to be retrained for electric alternatives in existing car manufacturing plants.
Electric cars can save fuel costs for their owners. As electricity is cheaper than petrol and diesel, electric vehicle owners can spend six times less on fuel than their combustion powered equivalents. Electric vehicle owners also don’t have to pay vehicle excise duty, saving £140 a year, and are exempt from congestion and emission zone charges in major cities.
Decarbonising transport is a complicated business, and we do not recommended a simple like-for-like replacement of conventional vehicles to electric vehicles without attempts to also reduce vehicle travel in general. But greater public transport, walking and cycling requirements will require a larger transport strategy, and will take a large amount of attention by policy makers. ‘Locking off’ the issue of when cars and vans will transition to electric alternatives through this earlier ban will allow more time and energy on policy development of diversifying how we travel.
Economic and technical factors
Electric cars and vans will be as cheap to buy as petrol and diesel equivalents by the mid-2020s. Given the fuel savings involved, over their lifetimes electric vehicles are almost competitive with conventional vehicles now. This will remove one of the main concerns over electric vehicles, making them the natural vehicles of choice in the latter half of the 2020s.
Taking advantage of this can be a boost for economy too. A 2030 petrol and diesel ban would add £7bn to the economy directly, and be save £20bn compared to a 2040 ban. This doesn’t include a £2bn saving from reducing oil imports, with oil imports halving between now and 2035 if this ban is implemented, allowing greater energy security for the UK.
Far from breaking the electricity grid, if used correctly, electric vehicles can strengthen our electricity system and make it more efficient. National Grid has stated that it could integrate a 2030 petrol and diesel ban into the existing system without difficulties. Smart charging of electric vehicles can balance the electrical grid, delivering £1.7bn in benefit.
Car manufacturers and other vital businesses in the supply chain don’t work on 21 year timescales that the 2040 ‘mission’ to ban petrol and diesel is proposing. 5-8 years is a more realistic timescale for investment in new car models and types. Therefore, a 2030 or earlier ban will actually impact on future investment decisions within the industry, sending a strong signal to businesses that they must get ready for an electric future soon. New combustion engines that can only be sold for a few years or not at all in one of Europe’s largest car markets will not be a profitable business model.
The UK government is a world leader on climate change, being the first nation in the world to put into law the Climate Change Act, and has been one of the fastest decarbonising nations in the world, with greenhouse gas emissions falling 44% since 1990. But as renewable electricity surges and coal power shrinks, the gains the UK has made in reducing emissions in the electricity sector are running out, and it is not on track to meet its 2025 and 2030 climate targets. The UK could face international political humiliation if this were to happen, and big gains in reducing emissions in the building and industrial sectors are more uncertain, difficult and expensive than in transport. The public also back more electric vehicles and decarbonising transport. 69% of British citizens want faster action on climate change, and the issue is increasing in concern among the public. This has also translated to individual areas of action, with a fifth of the public considering buying an EV this year. 93% of the public think that EVs have advantages over their petrol and diesel equivalents.
To move forward and keep hold of its leadership, the UK need to make swinging cuts to transport emissions in the next decade. To do that, it needs to electrify its vehicle fleet as quickly as possible, in tandem with a wider ranging strategy to reduce vehicle demand. This means a 2030 or earlier ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans. Stopping climate change, healthier air, more jobs, more money, and so many other benefits are why a rapid transition to electric vehicles is not only the right thing to do, it’s the urgent thing to do to combat the climate crisis that we face.