WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- As electric vehicles become more reliable and affordable countries around the world are sounding the death knell for the combustion engine and banning them from their roads
Everything seems to be going electric these days, from aircraft and ships to cars, and last week UK environment secretary Michael Gove announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in Britain by 2040 in the hope that by 2050 there will be none left on the roads. He also announced plans that by 2043 every car should be electric, and given the fact that only 1 percent of vehicles in the UK are electric today, and the fact that even Uber had problems trying to find places to plug in its new electric fleet of vehicles when it started rolling them out in London last year that means that there’s a lot of work to do.
The new announcement is part of a package of measures designed to help bring pollution back down to legal limits in towns and cities across Britain that could include retrofitting buses and changing road layouts to improve air quality on 81 of the most polluted roads.
The air quality plan also includes incentives for green taxis and for better cycling and walking facilities, and there will also be a consultation on a scrappage scheme for old diesel vehicles.
The overall package has been earmarked as costing £3bn, but 90 per cent of this has already been announced, and Mr Gove’s announcement came after BMW said on Tuesday that its new electric Mini would be assembled in Britain.
“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,” he said.
The UK government was recently forced to publish new air pollution plans before the end of this month in response to two legal actions by campaign group ClientEarth when the UK High Court ruled that previous plans failed to comply with an EU directive to cut emissions in the “shortest possible time.”
Meanwhile Anna Heslop, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said that the latest announcement was “eye-catching” but “in terms of whether it’s going to fix the immediate air-quality problem, we’re not convinced,” adding “while this plan makes the right headline-grabbing noises, in reality it means that children across the UK will continue to be exposed to harmful air pollution for years to come.”
While London is planning a £10 a day charge for 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting cars Mr Gove is not expected to suggest that other parts of the country follow the capital’s lead, and Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said that an outright ban in the UK could undermine the industry, which supported more than 800,000 jobs across the country – unless that is there were new incentives for consumers to buy electric cars.
“Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concern over affordability, range and charging points,” he said, and the CEO of Aston Martin also criticised the ban and called on the government to support the transition to electric cars.
“If the government is going to legislate then they have to assist as well, otherwise they will destroy part of the industry. If we’re going to compete, we need to be the centre of manufacturing for batteries. But if you walk round any battery factory in China, we’re ten years behind them,” he said, although that said the UK is at the center of new polymer technology that could one day replace the ubiquitous Lithium Ion batteries used in many of today’s electric vehicles…
He also added that the UK target for all electric sales by 2040 was “absurd” because of the long distances that some people need to travel.
“The entire British car industry is deeply deeply rooted in gasoline and diesel,” he added.
Analysts expect sales of electric vehicles to take off when they cost the same as diesel and petrol cars, and UBS says it expects one in three cars in Europe to be electric by 2025.