diesel petrol cars air pollution

Petrol and diesel cars to be banned in the UK from 2040

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The UK government is set to announce that the sale of cars fuelled by diesel and petrol will be banned by 2040 under new rules designed to tackle air pollution.

After the legislation has been implemented, all future vehicle sales must be fully electric in plans that echo an announcement earlier this month by the French government.

The UK government’s decision comes just days after the EU Commissioner for Industry wrote a letter warning European transport ministers against banning diesel cars in certain cities, arguing that this would deprive automakers of funds to invest in emissions reduction. 

The Times said the sale of new hybrid vehicles that have an electric motor combined with a petrol or diesel engine would also end under the plan.

The government has been under pressure to take measures to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups.

Earlier this month London Mayor Sadiq Khan outlined plans to fight air pollution in the capital in what he described was an “issue of life and death”. 

By 6 January this year, some London roads had already broken legal limits for toxic air for the entire year.

Under the proposals due to be announced today, local authorities would be able to charge levies on the drivers of diesel vehicles on the most polluted roads from 2020, if air quality does not improve, the Daily Mail newspaper said.

Separately on Tuesday, German carmaker BMW said it had chosen its plant in Oxford, UK, as the location to produce an electric Mini from 2019.

Volvo recently became the first major traditional automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine by saying all of its car models launched after 2019 will be electric or hybrids. 

But motoring experts have raised a series of concerns over the government’s clean air strategy.

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine, said it would be “a tall order” to increase the market share of electrified vehicles from 4 per cent of new car sales today to 100 per cent in just 23 years.

“The car industry has proved time and again that it can hit demanding targets, but at the moment electrified cars are both more expensive and less usable than traditionally-engined ones,” he said.

“These are hurdles that must be overcome to win over car buyers.”

Holder said concerns over the charging infrastructure, the response of drivers to electric cars and the loss of billions of pounds of fuel duty meant “the risk is that this announcement creates more problems than it solves”.

A report in June showed that government efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from road transport could leave a multi-billion-pound hole in annual tax receipts. 

Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the automotive sector could be “undermined” if the industry was not given enough time to adapt to the new policy.

He said: “Much depends on the cost of these new technologies and how willing consumers are to adopt battery, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen cars.

“Currently demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concern over affordability, range and charging points.

“Outright bans risk undermining the current market for new cars and our sector, which supports over 800,000 jobs across the UK so the industry instead wants a positive approach, which gives consumers incentives to purchase these cars.”

But Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, which runs a network of electric-vehicle charging points, said changes in the industry would mean such a ban may not be needed.

He said: “The market will beat both governments (the French and British) to this, there won’t be any new petrol or diesel cars available to buy anyway by 2040.

“The speed that car manufacturers are moving at, I’d guess by 2030 you’ll have to work hard to find one of these old-fashioned things.

“Volvo will be there in 18 months, who’s next?”

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