New diesel and petrol cars to be banned from 2040 in UK

New diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040. This announcement from the government is in response to being taken to court by Environmental law firm ClientEarth over levels of air pollution.

Diesel exhaust

The announcement mirrors that of France; earlier in July, President Emmanuel Macron said that diesel and petrol cars would be banned in France from 2040.

The UK government had already said that it wanted virtually all cars on sale in 2040 to be electric. So today’s news isn’t a surprise to the industry, and as 2040 is 23 years away, it still leaves the issue of what happens to clean up air quality in the immediate short-term.

Diesel is still seen as the primary culprit for poor levels of air quality in urban areas; older vehicles, including buses, taxis, vans and trucks, are responsible for the worst diesel emissions; the latest Euro 6 standard diesel cars are much cleaner.

So electric cars are seen as the way forward. BMW announced yesterday that a fully electric MINI would be built in the UK in 2019. Volvo also recently announced that all its new cars from 2019 will have an electric motor – this means that the company will still be offering petrol and diesel engines, but in combination with plug-in hybrid powertrains.

The government recently released its draft clean air strategy for consultation, which included proposals for clean air zones in the most polluted urban areas. However overall this document put the onus on local authorities, and didn’t contain many revolutionary ideas for the short term. The document contained no confirmation of a diesel scrappage scheme. The government now has to publish the final version.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth took the government to court over illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide. Air pollution is thought to be linked to about 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, and transport also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. ClientEarth’s Chief Executive James Thornton recently spoke at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference at City Hall in London.

In combination with ever more news items about the increasingly rapid switch to electric cars, last week the National Grid published its ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ (FES) report, which stated that electric vehicles could create an additional peak electricity demand of up to 18 GW by 2050, equivalent to an additional 30 per cent on top of today’s peak demand of 60 GW. However smart charging, as being trialled by the Electric Nation project, could play a key role in helping to tackle this challenge.

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