As it stands, every car sold new in the United Kingdom will need to have zero local emissions starting in 2030. Government officials set this ambitious target in 2020, but several British media outlets are reporting that the prime minister’s office is likely to delay that date to 2035.
While the move hasn’t been confirmed yet, the BBC writes that delaying the ban on new combustion-powered cars by five years is one of about seven policy changes that prime minister Rishi Sunak will announce in the coming days. The plan to phase out gas-powered boilers by 2035 is expected to get partially rolled back as well, according to the same report, and Sunak will reassure United Kingdom citizens that his government won’t approve new taxes to discourage flying, pass laws to change people’s diets, or take measures to encourage carpooling.
“For too many years, politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade-offs. Instead, they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all. This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments,” Sunak said.
Some of the carmakers that have spent a significant amount of money to comply with the government’s demands criticized the report.
“We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom, and cost-of-living is high,” Lisa Brankin, the head of Ford’s British arm, told the Evening Standard. Other industry players worry that delaying the ban on gasoline- and diesel-powered cars will cause EV sales to collapse.
However, some members of the British government agree with the proposed delay. “We’ve got to remember that these targets are goals, not straightjackets, and we’re not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people,” said Home Secretary Suella Braveman.
One of the many points that remain up in the air is what happens to hybrid models. As of writing, companies are allowed to sell electrified cars — which are fundamentally different than electric cars; don’t let marketing-speak fool you — in the United Kingdom until 2035 as long as these models are capable of traveling a “significant” distance on battery power, according to British magazine What Car?. The problem is that the definition of “significant” hasn’t been set; are we talking 20, 50, or 100 miles? Regardless, if the United Kingdom pushes back its ban on new gasoline-powered cars, the sale of hybrid models may get pushed back by five years as well, meaning they’d be around until 2040.
If the report is accurate, Sunak will make the announcement on September 22, 2023.