Time is running out for the era of the traditional combustion engine!
As a pukka petrolhead, this sounds like terrible news. The UK has brought forward its deadline on the ban on selling petrol and diesel cars – including hybrid cars! Previously the date was set as the year 2040, however that’s now been revised to just 15 years from now – 2035.
A decade and half is really not that long, and whilst I suspect the car industry will be able to offer numerous and viable electric alternatives well before then, there are other questions about how Britain expects total vehicle usage – numbering over 38 million presently on our roads – to switch away from petrol and diesel entirely – which is what this ultimately about.
The British government was forced to change its plans under advisement from climate experts who insist that it would not be possible to meet the target of zero emissions by 2050, unless the ban was brought forward.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made the announcement at a launch event for a United Nations Climate Summit that is due to be held in Glasgow in November and declared 2020 a “defining year of climate action”, a call that was supported by Naturalist and powerful proponent for climate action, Sir David Attenborough. “It’s up to us to put before the nations of the world what needs to be done. Now is the moment,” he said.
The prime minister added that a “catastrophic addiction” to fossil fuels was “cloaking the planet like a tea cosy”. Descriptive analogies aside, it will be interesting to see how the UK car industry and the trade will react to this news. The new date for the ban on petrol and diesel cars is subject to consultation and no doubt the car industry, already beseiged by Brexit, a Diesel cars sales slowdown, stringent emissions regulations and a decline in exports to the Chinese market, will have much to say about it.
Mike Hawes, the SMMT Chief Executive has responded: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue. Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020.
“However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. This is about market transformation
“We need to hear how government plans to fulfill its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”
However with burgeoning, very real climatic abnormalities witnessed very recently and the horror of those huge fires in Australia, all directly or indirectly as a result of humanity’s impact on climate change, even octane-swilling car fans like me have to concede that there has to be change, and it has to happen now. Experts claim that unless they ban the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2035, a substantial number of petrol and diesel cars would still be on the roads by 2050 and the zero emissions target would not be met.
The bigger question remains over the infrastructure required to cope with a 100% switch over to electric cars, currently for most drivers and car owners in the UK, running an electric car remains difficult to unfeasible unless they have home charging available. As Hawes also says “the UK’s charging network is still woefully inadequate”.
I’ve just posted my latest video update, which you can see on this page, in which I express the dilemma of the inconvenience of having to charge up a Plug-in Electric hybrid vehicle. It’s not going to be easy.
Of course by 2050 I will be a couple of years past 80. So will I care? And surely there will always be classic cars to enjoy won’t there? Thing is though, how will we run them when petrol stations start disappearing?