Government launches consultation to end sale of new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicle

Fleets will only be able to take delivery of new 100% electric or hydrogen-fuelled cars and vans from 2035 – and potentially earlier – if the Government has its way.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government would end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2035 at the latest – five years earlier than previously announced – to further crackdown on emissions and would include plug-in hybrid vehicles in the ban.

Now fleets are being asked by the Government for their views on the plan via a public consultation that asks five key questions:

  • The phase out date, which has been brought forward five years from 2040 and could be earlier if a faster transition appears feasible
  • The definition of what should be phased out
  • Barriers to achieving the above proposals
  • The impact of the ambitions on different sectors of industry and society
  • The measures required by Government and others to achieve an earlier phase out date.

The consultation document makes clear that owners of existing petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars and vans would still be able to drive them and buy and sell them on the used market.

In announcing the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the measure “demonstrated the UK’s urgent action to reduce emissions” and added that the “Government will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero emission vehicles”.

The newly-elected Government’s first Budget on Wednesday, March 11 is expected to include a number of measures designed to accelerate the push towards an electric and hydrogen-powered fleet future.

Critical for the fleet industry is the continuation of the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, the former of which is due to be axed at the end of March.

The maximum Plug-In Car Grant is £3,500 – there is no definitive date on expiry of the £8,000 Plug-In Van Grant – and Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: “Fleets will only be able to meet the Government’s ambitious new decarbonisation goals if they are given the right support with electric vehicle grants, tax incentives and infrastructure costs.”

With the Budget imminent, he continued: “Budget 2020 is an opportunity to set the tone for a new decade in which the transition to decarbonised road transport will be won or lost.

“Fleets are being asked to invest billions of pounds in new electric vehicle technology and infrastructure, which comes at a hefty price premium to its petrol and diesel alternatives.

“To achieve these goals the Government must provide a clear support package through to at least 2025. It must preserve the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, maintain a strong set of tax incentives and tackle the huge and often arbitrary costs associated with fleet charging infrastructure.”

Hopes are also high that the tax incentives will include retaining the reduced rates of company car benefit-in-kind tax due to take effect from April 6 for several years beyond 2022/23 for which they have been announced to date.

Meanwhile, as Britain gears up for an electric future in potentially just three vehicle replacement cycles time on average, concern has been expressed in the House of Lords at the potential hazard caused by electric vehicles breaking down.

Potentially taking longer to be removed that from roads than broken down internal combustion engine models, the Department for Transport is reported to be examining measures to ensure that electric vehicles can be removed from roads quickly.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Randerson, a Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, said: “[Electric] vehicles stop very suddenly. They also cannot be towed; they have to be put on a low-loader, which is a much more complex and longer process that will put rescue teams in greater danger.”

The debate came with the safety of so-called smart motorways, which use hard shoulders as live lanes, under microscope. The AA has previously said that the increased use of electric vehicles could be incompatible with smart motorways due to the lack of emergency refuge areas.

Meanwhile, the Vehicle Remarketing Association has highlighted a potential “charging crisis” for remarketing companies as electric vehicles start to make their way on to the used car market in larger numbers.

As vehicles are defleeted it is currently “just a question of ensuring that there is sufficient fuel in the tank of each”, according to the Association. However, in a new world of electric vehicles it will be vital to ensure they are charged to a “useable degree” to move them around.

Sam Watkins, chairman of the Association whose members handle more than 1.5 million used vehicles each year, said: “Once an electric vehicle has a flat battery, the movement of it becomes a challenge as they must be handled in line with correct safety protocols which differ from internal combustion engines.”

The Government consultation runs until May 29. The consultation document can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consulting-on-ending-the-sale-of-new-petrol-diesel-and-hybrid-cars-and-vans/consulting-on-ending-the-sale-of-new-petrol-diesel-and-hybrid-cars-and-vans

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