The government has confirmed that petrol and diesel hybrid cars will still be sold in 2040, in a move that has angered environmental campaigners.
Last year ministers pledged to ban the sale of all new cars powered by petrol or diesel in 2040, but the transport secretary Chris Grayling recently confirmed that hybrid cars – those powered by electricity as well as either petrol or diesel – would be exempt from the ban.
The ban is part of the government’s Road to Zero campaign to reduce air pollution, and now also includes a target for at half of all new cars bought in 2030 to be ultra-low emission. Although it doesn’t make any commitments, the government’s strategy aims to have “all new cars and vans to have significant zero-emission capability” by 2040 and “almost” every car and van to be completely emission free by 2050.
“I want it to be easier for electric vehicle drivers to recharge than for motorists to visit a filling station. I want them to choose electric cars because they are so convenient.”
Grayling said that a delayed fund of £400 million will be launched this summer to help increase charging infrastructure across the country, which will see thousands more charging points on the nation’s streets and in homes and workplaces.
Environmental groups have accused the government of weakening its commitments in light of the exemption of hybrid vehicles. Greenpeace responded by claiming that the motor industry had “yet again been given a free pass” and that the government’s stated targets were weak in comparison to international standards.
The Campaign for Better Transport also responded by saying it was “disappointed” and described the move as “a step backwards, giving concessions to keeping hybrids on the road, which will water down the already inadequate 2040 target”.
The government’s apparent climb down regarding hybrids comes after the motor industry had argued that the 2040 targets had begun to contribute to consumer fears over diesel-powered cars, which have seen sales crash over the past year. Cheif executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Mike Hawes, said the new approach recognised “the vital role conventional engines, including diesel, will continue to play in the transition to 2040 and beyond”.
Mr Hawes said that while the motor industry welcomed the news that hybrids would be exempt from the 2040 ban, it still held concerns regarding the 2030 targets for “ultra-low emission” vehicles”. He said:
“We need realistic ambition levels and measures that support industry’s efforts, allow manufacturers time to invest, innovate and sell competitively, and provide the right incentives and infrastructure to take the consumer with us”.