The UK Government announced last week (20th September 23) that the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be moved out to 2035. This announcement falls in line with the European Parliaments same decision earlier this year.
Although the news has divided some of those in the automotive industry, it could not have been too much of a shock to the industry having seen how things have developed in Europe over the past 6 months.
During the Net Zero conference on Wednesday 20th September, the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed that despite his announcement, he still felt that most new cars sold in the UK by 2030 would be electric. His reasoning cited reductions in costs, range improvements and the national charging infrastructure improving.
However, he defended his decision by agreeing that the UK consumer should still be given a choice and not forced to purchase an EV by the Government. Sunak recognised that the upfront cost of a new EV is still currently considerably higher than its petrol or diesel alternative and with families already struggling with the cost of living, this is just not a reasonable expectation in the current economic climate.
Furthermore, Sunak recognised that small businesses in particular have voiced their concerns about the ‘practicalities’ of an enforced new EV ruling from 2030, with consumers still able to purchase new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK until 2035.
Sunak’s recognition of consumer choice and the concerns of small businesses on the enforced sale of new EV’s, seems to have been echoed by VW’s recent announcement that they plan to curb the production of EV’s at two German plants due to declining European demand and shrinking government subsidies.
VW are planning on ending production at its Dresden plant in Germany amid a cost-cutting drive, and cutting temporary workers at its Zwickau site, its main electric-vehicle factory in Germany. This decision comes amidst the phaseout of a subsidy in Germany has caused demand for the VW EVs to drop.
Germany have been in the spotlight several times this year with regards to the EU and European Parliaments drive towards net-zero. The European deadline for the ban on new petrol and diesel cars has always been agreed to be 2035.
However, Germany and several other EU countries had announced that they would abstain from the vote on the EU’s ban on new petrol or diesel cars unless the European Commission proposed how new combustion engine cars could be registered even after that date if they ran exclusively on e-fuels.
At the time, Transport Minister Volker Wissing told journalists that Germany would only agree if the Commission made a proposal on how ICE’s running only on e-fuels could be registered even after 2035.
“The European Commission must deliver, to enable a registration of combustion engine vehicles even after 2035”, he said. “We need all options,” including battery-electric, hydrogen and combustion engines running on e-fuels, he added. (1)
Within the space of a few short weeks the EU had approved the use of e-fuels and in doing so opened up the alternative fuel options for automotive manufacturers. On Tuesday 28th March 23 EU countries gave the final approval to a landmark law to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars in 2035. (2)
The EU law will require all new cars sold to have zero CO2 emissions from 2035, and 55% lower CO2 emissions from 2030, versus 2021 levels. The targets are designed to drive the rapid decarbonisation of new car fleets in Europe. (2)
E-fuels are considered carbon neutral because they are made using captured CO2 emissions – which proponents say balances out the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted in an engine. (2)
Frans Timmermans, the commission’s executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, added: “The transition to zero-emission mobility has to be supported by the right infrastructure, ready for you when you need it, where you need it. (3)
Despite the fact that the UK now seems in step with it’s European neighbours on the date for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, this news has not necessarily landed well on manufacturers.
Having spent the last few years developing EV ranges and investing heavily in the infrastructure for the same, the UK automotive industry are naturally uncertain about this latest development.
Ford, one of the UK’s most popular car brands, selling more than 126,000 vehicles in 2022, criticised the change, saying it would “undermine” the move to electric.(4)
Ford’s UK chair Lisa Brankin said the original 2030 target “is a vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future”, adding the company had already invested £430m in upgrading its UK plants to produce electric cars. (4)
“Our business needs three things from the UK government, ambition, commitment, and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three,” (4)
However, by contrast Toyota said the government’s announcement was “welcome” adding it recognised that “all low emission and affordable technologies can have a role to play in a pragmatic vehicle transition”. (4)
Jaguar Land Rover said the move was “pragmatic and brings the UK in line with other nations, which we welcome”. (4)
Despite the conflicting messages from Government and some of the leading UK automotive manufacturers, the UK are now in step with many other countries in Europe and beyond. The goal is still the same and the drive to net zero remains the same.
However, with the costs of living rise and other economic pressures from abroad, the latest announcement by the UK Government does go some way to supporting those who cannot afford the current EV transmission, with keeping a focus on how policy can still put the UK at the forefront of the climate change agenda.
Written by Katy mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2