05/02/2020

A ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles in the UK will be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest, under revised government plans.

The change comes after experts said 2040 would be too late if the UK wants to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the policy as part of a launch event for a United Nations climate summit in November. The annual UN-led gathering set up to assess progress on tackling climate change, known as COP26, is being hosted in Glasgow.

In a statement made ahead of the launch, the Prime Minister said the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars would come even earlier than 2035, if possible, with hybrid vehicles also now being included in the proposals. This means people will only be able to buy electric or hydrogen cars and vans, once the ban comes into effect.

The change in plans, which will be subject to a consultation, comes after experts warned the previous target date of 2040 would still leave old conventional cars on the roads following the clean-up date of 2050.

While green groups welcomed the news and urged the government to set an even earlier date, motoring organisations said the UK was unprepared for electric alternatives by 2035.


The SMS view

With about a third of CO2 emissions in the UK coming from transport, the revised ban on conventional car sales is certainly a step in the right direction if the country is to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, there remain a number of huge challenges ahead if we are to transition our transport – and indeed our entire economy – to low carbon effectively.

To a large extent, this will depend on the level of support that the government provides industry and consumers to decarbonise.

Indeed, we can only succeed in achieving net-zero emissions through substantial and long-term change in the way we use and source energy. From demand reduction through to flexible charging of vehicles, policy will undoubtedly need to do more to drive this change.

In the case of electrification of transport, if the majority of the UK population is to switch to EVs by 2035, then the speed of installing charging points will have to radically increase to cope with demand. It has been estimated the UK needs to have 25 million charging points for electric vehicles (there are currently around just 30,000 connectors in 11,000 public locations in the UK, according to ZapMap).

Though there are parts of the country where the number of charging points is keeping up with demand, more are needed in many places, with people who live in flats, or houses without driveways, especially facing a struggle to charge their electric cars at home.

There is also a need for more rapid-charging points, for people on long journeys and those who haven't charged overnight.

At SMS, we are addressing some of these important issues as a partner in the government-backed Virgin Media Park & Charge Project (VPACH) project. By building a fully-scalable electric vehicle charging network, VPACH aims to help local authorities find a solution to limited on-street electric car charging points, thereby encouraging more people – particularly those without access to private parking – to use EVs.

Besides local authorities, we are also working with UK businesses – who account for a significant share of the country’s transport emissions – to accelerate their adoption of EVs and EV charge points.

Looking forward, the decision of the British government to advance the ban on combustion engine vehicles by five years to 2035 will now put extra pressure on businesses to consider their long-term energy strategies when it comes to fleet and charging considerations.

This however should not be seen as a headache, rather an opportunity for businesses, to whom the adoption of EVs can offer a plethora of potential commercial benefits.

Besides the cost and tax savings of switching to an EV fleet, or the potential to bring in new customers requiring charging facilities and the related retail opportunities this may provide, any business can take advantage of EV charging technology by considering it as part of a wider energy strategy.

Our energy consultants are today working with businesses on how to get the most out of EV charge points: whether saving energy and cutting costs through smart charging, or by leveraging other mechanisms, such as battery storage, on-site generation or demand-side response, to create added revenue streams and improve sustainability.


Working with a net-zero partner

Ultimately, banning new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars won't be enough to achieve net-zero carbon emissions on its own. The government and UK industry will also need to tackle the emissions coming from energy generation, which are almost as high as from transport and come largely from powering homes and businesses.

We therefore must not lose sight of the intrinsic link between reducing transport emissions and the need for a transition to a smarter and low-carbon energy system. One cannot be achieved without the other and so a holistic approach to transport and energy is required, as well as a significant upscaling of infrastructure to support both.

For instance, given the announcement of the 2035 ban, particularly pertinent is how we can make sure the electricity grid can cope with the huge surge in demand from the amount of electric car chargers needed to support the switch.

While government must continue to lead these efforts, businesses and consumers will need to play an important role too by way of how we change our behaviours around energy in order reduce our collective consumption and carbon footprint.

At SMS, we are working to achieve this balance, not only though our installation of smart meters which are helping to establish a smarter, more efficient energy grid, but through partnering with UK businesses to boost their energy efficiency and overall sustainability.

We are committed to providing the services businesses need to tackle energy costs and carbon emissions, and reduce the threat posed by climate change. From quick-return implementations such as LED switchover to large-scale zero-carbon solutions such as self-generation, electric vehicles and battery storage, we can help finance and deliver these transformative projects to significantly reduce energy use and the carbon emissions associated with it.


To find out how we can help your business with energy strategy and investment in low-carbon technologies, talk to one of our experts today.

Call 02920 893 882 or leave your details and we’ll get back to you.

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