In 2030, a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars comes into force in the United Kingdom - and a number of nations - but there are questions surrounding what it means to drivers, car buyers, and fleets.
Here we look at what will be included in the ban, future developments, and how it will impact drivers in real terms.
What cars will be banned in 2030?
The crucial word in the ban is “new”. The phrasing from the government is “the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030” but by skipping over “new” creates unnecessary panic amongst drivers.
From some point in 2030 - likely to be the first day of the year judging by wording, but as yet unconfirmed - new petrol and diesel cars will not be able to be sold in the UK.
At the highest level, this means that the only cars able to be sold in the UK as new will be those not powered by petrol or diesel. Instead, new car buyers will be required to buy a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure-electric, or other fuel type such as hydrogen fuel cell or LPG.
Again, clarity on what models will be included is not yet forthcoming from the government, and one suspects that it’s not been decided. However, working principles in the industry mean that electrified vehicles will be allowed, but only with a significant amount of electric support.
This suggests that mild hybrids will be included in the list of banned models, but conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and of course pure-electric models will be allowed.
The reason behind this thinking is that the government is pushing towards greener transport, and there is already a 2035 ban proposed that extends the ban to the new sale of all vehicles with an internal combustion engine. This would include hybrids and plug-in hybrids - it’s even expected to include the sale of new range-extended electric vehicles; essentially PHEV+.
Petrol and diesel sales will continue
Despite the sale of new petrol and diesel models being banned from 2030, the sale of used models will continue. This will gradually dwindle over years as the fleet gets thinned through crashes/write-offs, and scrapping of internal combustion cars.
It is also expected that significant stockpiling of petrol and diesel cars will take place in the year before the ban. With current supply issues, this will not be possible, but with a few years for the automotive supply chain to sort itself out, and then start producing excess units, at least some stockpiling is likely to happen.
With dealers bringing in as many cars as they can and registering them, they can still sell them on after the ban comes into force as used cars - even if they have practically no mileage on them.
“Normal” used car sales will continue as well, but expect a couple of years either side of the ban being implemented where unusual buying tactics take place. And there will be a premium on those “new-used” petrol and diesel models for those who are decided on that fuel type.
Is the ban coming in too soon?
Nope, not really. We are still - at the time of writing - a little over seven years away from the ban on new petrol and diesel cars if it launches on January 1st 2023. The development and increase in electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid models in the same timeframe is extraordinary, and accelerating.
New car sales of electrified cars are climbing and new models are being launched regularly. This gives greater choice of cars for potential drivers, plus development is seeing longer driving ranges, faster charging times, and prices are coming down, making them more affordable.
As such, demand for new electric and electrified cars is growing organically, and will likely be at a level come the time the ban kicks in that it will only impact a handful of buyers, relatively speaking - single-digit percent of the market anyway.
Will petrol stations close across the country?
Despite a ban on petrol and diesel cars coming in in 2030, and all internal combustion engine cars five years later, refilling stations are here for some time yet.
Looking at the latest UK car data from SMMT until the end of 2021, the number of cars on the road is a little over 35 million units. Of those 720,000 are electric cars, so the percentage is still very small, accounting for just 2% of all cars on the road. 2022 has increased that figure a little for sure, but just how much yet is not clear.
Another stat from the figures is that the average age of a car on the road is 8.7 years old, and also means just under a quarter of those being used - around 8.4 million cars - are more than 13 years old.
Clearly, as soon as the ban comes into force, the majority of cars on the road will remain powered by an internal combustion engine, which means drivers will still have to have somewhere to refill for some time to come.
Plus, forecourts are located in convenient places - it’s why most are where they are situated - so a gradual conversion from petrol to electric chargers is likely over the coming years. There are already dedicated electric forecourts, but - where space and safety allows - petrol stations are likely to gradually install EV chargers and reduce the number of fuel pumps.
With cars requiring fuel for at least the next decade or more after the ban, disappearing filling stations is an unlikely scenario.
On top of that, carbon neutral fuels are being developed, which will be able to quickly reduce the emissions impact of existing internal combustion engine models, extending their life on the road. And these will need to be bought from somewhere.