current affairs transport

Britain will ban petrol and diesel cars from 2040 – mostly

There was some good transport related news today from the British government: from 2040, petrol and diesel cars will no longer be sold in Britain. It’s part of the government’s response to air pollution rather than climate change, but I’ll take it.

France made a similar commitment a couple of weeks ago, also for 2040. India will be ten years ahead of both European countries, with plans for all electric by 2030. And they in turn will be five years behind Norway, world leader in electric cars, which aims to make a full transition by 2025. Other countries will follow, and I’m aware of discussions in a number of other places. Germany has a proposal on the table for 2030 that it would like to see rolled out across the whole EU.

Petrolheads need not despair. It’s 23 years away in Britain, which many campaigners are arguing is too far away. And more importantly, hybrids are allowed. The oil companies can breathe a sigh of relief. This is a ban on 100% fossil fuel vehicles, not an outright ban. It won’t mark a transition to an all-electric fleet, let alone a zero carbon one.

In fact, it may not make much difference. Experts have been saying for a while that all cars are likely to have some degree of hybridization by 2020 anyway. Volvo were the first car company to announce that none of their new cars will be 100% fossil fuels from 2019, but they won’t be the last. Hybrids just make sense, and as the cost of batteries comes down there’ll be no reason not to have one. In which case, the government’s target might not make any difference whatsoever to the cars that are actually on the road in 2040.

But we’ll take it as a starting point. We can tighten it up, bring it forward, close some loopholes. For today, let’s just acknowledge that the government has at least identified the right direction of travel.


  1. A couple of days ago there was an announcement about stimulating households and others to generate more renewable power, but I’ve yet to see details. This increase in electricity generation will be vital if electric cars (and hopefully other vehicles) come about. Ditto the promise of more money to stimulate research and innovation (and production?) in battery technology. Do you have any info – or links to info – you can share with us? This all runs so counter to recent Government restrictions on support for renewable energy that I find it a little hard to believe….

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