Petrol and diesel car ban explained


A ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in the UK is to be brought forward from 2040 to 2035.

This change to government plans comes following warnings from experts that if the UK wants to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050, the original ban date of 2040 would be too late.

Do you have questions about what the ban means to you? Here we explain the petrol and diesel car ban in more detail and how that might affect your motor trade insurance coverage in the future.

When will the petrol and diesel car ban come into effect?

The proposed date for the ban of petrol and diesel cars from the UK’s roads was originally scheduled for 2040.

The government has since bought this date forward to 2035, but transport secretary Greg Shapps has admitted that the ban could come into play as early as 2032. An article in The Times reported the ban could take place as soon as 2030 – a mere 10 years from now.

What cars will be affected?

The ban affects new diesel and petrol cars. That means people will still be able to buy second-hand petrol and diesel vehicles, but they will only be able to drive a fully electric car off the forecourt. As the ban is only related to new vehicles, anyone currently driving a petrol or diesel car will be able to continue doing so after the ban has come into effect.

The idea is that this is a gradual phase-out programme, so not everyone will be expected to drive a fully electric or hydrogen-powered car from the cut-off date.

The ban has also been extended to include hybrids and plug-in hybrids, which were not included in the original proposals first announced in 2017.
A person re-fuelling their diesel car at a service station

How will the ban impact climate change?

Roughly a third of CO2 emissions in the UK come from transport. While the majority of that comes from air travel, a ban on non-petrol and -diesel car sales will certainly help the government meet its zero emissions target by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that if other countries were to copy the UK’s lead, there would be a 50:50 chance of keeping global warming less than the recommended temperature of 1.5°C by 2100 (a figure widely considered as the threshold for perilous climate change).

It is clear that a ban on petrol and diesel cars alone is not enough to reverse the impact of climate change. The government will also have to look at how it deals with reducing emissions from industry and people’s homes.

How will the ban affect pollution levels?

Nitrogen oxide (Nox) emissions (those coming from car exhausts) often exceed safe levels in many cities. Diesel cars are the biggest contributor to roadside Nox levels, followed by diesel vans, diesel HGVs, diesel buses and petrol cars.

Air quality – in cities in particular – has long been a concern. However, after the UK government lost court cases about its plans to reduce air pollution, the issue has been revisited with renewed urgency and courts ordering the government to produce new plans on ways to tackle Nox levels.

The situation grew worse when it was revealed that car companies were routinely cheating emissions tests, claiming vehicles were less polluting than they actually were.

How much will it cost to switch to an electric car?

Historically, costs have been a key factor preventing many people from buying an electric car. However, this is set to change. The Committee on Climate Change has predicted that electric vehicles will be a similar price to petrol or diesel equivalents by 2021-2024.

New, affordable electric cars are entering the market all the time, with more than 30 set to launch in the UK this year.

Some of the models launching this year include the Honda E and Volkswagen ID.3 – both of which are hoping to appeal to a wider audience and make electric car ownership more of a reality for the average road user.

The government’s plug-in grant offers a maximum of £3,500 towards the cost of a new low-emission vehicle. This incentive is due to finish at the end of the month, but with the ban being brought forward, many (including RAC’s head of roads policy Nick Lyes) are urging the government to extend the plug-in car grant.

Lyes explained this extension should be “for at least another three years to help those that want to go electric, but who are put off by the high initial costs.”

There is currently no scrappage scheme that covers the UK for anyone looking to trade in their old diesel or petrol cars for a newer, greener model. However, some car manufacturers have introduced their own scrappage schemes as a way to boost electric car sales figures. These schemes offer as much as £5,000 to customers trading in their old vehicles.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan announced a £25 million scrappage scheme to take older polluting cars and motorbikes off the capital’s streets.
Two electric cars charging at a charge point on a sunny day

Is the UK ready for electric cars?

Currently, electric cars make up less than 2% of the total UK car market. There was a 144% sales boom in sales of electric cars last year, but many drivers are being put off by concerns about the country’s current electric car infrastructure.

Shapps confirmed that £1.5 billion has been allocated to additional charging stations so the UK is ready for a switch to electric. However, motoring experts have warned that more needs to be done, calling for more rapid charging stations to help meet an increased demand.

Some experts predict there could be a boom in second-hand petrol and diesel cars in the lead-up to the 2035 ban.

According to the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), there need to be big changes to insurance and maintenance for electric vehicles if the government expects motorists to move towards lower emissions vehicles. The IMI also revealed that just 1% of all qualified mechanics have been trained to safely work on high-voltage technology. And of those who do, virtually all work for a manufacturer’s franchised dealer, not independently.

With legislation like this changing all the time, if you’re in the motor trade industry you need to future-proof your business. This might be training more employees to work on electric cars or making sure you have the best motor trade insurance.

To find out more, speak to one of our advisers about how we can arrange motor trade insurance to be tailored for you.