What will the petrol and diesel ban mean for the car industry?

On 26 July, it was announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from Britain by the year 2040. There can be no denying that this came as a shock to many who saw the headline – particularly motorists – but, if we delve into the story a little further, the truth is that it should not have been.

Electric and hybrid cars such as Ford’s Focus Electric have been steadily growing in popularity over recent years and, whilst the green vehicle industry still has a long way to go, there can be little debating the fact that this growth will only continue and accelerate in future decades.

Anyone who has kept half an eye on developments within the car industry of late will already know that the total electrification of new cars has long been an ambition not just of the UK government, but of leaders around the European Union and beyond.

Although it may come as a surprise to some, the announcement that was made last month was little more than the formalisation and setting in place of a firm timeline for something which was – whether you are in favour of it or not – pretty much inevitable.

What do the experts think?

Electric car being charged

Whilst we will all have our own opinions about the upcoming ban and whether the move is a positive one, most of us, of course, are not experts. Fortunately, we were able to speak to two people who are - each of whom have very different interests in the impending changes.

Bill Moore, the publisher and editor-in-chief of EV World - a long-running, US-based sustainable transport news website - believes that the government’s plan is good in theory but that there is much more work to be done until their target can be achieved:

“Is the 2040 decision workable? Absolutely, but governments (national and local) have to start now given the size of Britain’s ICE-age vehicle fleet. That includes preparations for charging stations, renewable sources of electricity, and necessary society education and cultural adjustments that will have to take place over the next two decades as all of us – US, UK, Europe, China, India – shift to a more circular economy based on renewables. It won’t be easy and there will be opposition. Car dealers may find themselves becoming transportation/autonomous mobility service providers”.

Motorway.co.uk is a personal car sales valuation company which allows drivers to enter their vehicle’s details, compare quotes from different car buying sites and then select the option which is most suitable for them. Despite being a website which currently relies on the buying and selling of petrol and diesel cars, the views of Alex Buttle – director at Motorway.co.uk – are perhaps surprisingly similar to the editor of EV World’s:

“The government’s 2040 announcement certainly feels actionable and achievable, and essential to cut emissions, but it will come at a significant cost to the car industry…2017 now feels like a watershed year for the future of the industry”, Alex says. “On a brighter note – and not surprisingly – the alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) market seems to be going from strength to strength. Sales were up by almost two thirds in July 2017.”

Like Bill, however, Alex also believes that meeting the government’s self-imposed deadline of 2040 will be no easy feat and that the work towards doing so needs to be carried out with urgency. “While it’s impressive to see that AFV sales have reached record levels, they are still just a tenth of the number of petrol sales. This brings into sharp relief just how much the AFV market needs to grow in a relatively short space of time – and the clock is now ticking. The car market has a massive weight on its shoulders now and 2040 isn’t that far away.”

Motorway at night

As you can see, the general feeling amongst commentators from all sectors is that the July announcement was significant but very much expected, and that – if the government’s goal is to be achieved – changes need to be made yesterday!

Even though it may feel like we, as a nation of motorists, are heading into an uncertain future, it is important to remember that 2040 is still nearly a quarter of a century from now. One thing is for sure – if you currently have your eye on any quality second hand cars in Poole or elsewhere, you certainly shouldn’t let this news deter you from snapping them up!

Image Credits: Phil Long, Hakan Dahlstrom, IDS.photos