New diesel & petrol cars outlawed from 2040
Startling news hit headlines today as ministers outlined plans to ban new petrol, diesel & hybrid cars outright from 2040- one of the most ambitious changes planned to the face of Britain so far this century. A total ban on cars as we know them is a major announcement- curiously made while the Prime Minister takes a holiday in Italy. Such a sweeping policy is rarely so vague- and groups from all sides have been quick to scrutinise the plans.
Even while the last few years have seen fossil-fuel, and particularly diesel, cars decline in popularity thanks to stinging government regulation, it’s never been envisaged that a total ban would be on the cards. With 169,000 people employed in car manufacturing and 814,000 in wider car-related industries, it would seem there is little to replace the jobs sure to be lost. Electric cars require a totally different (and largely automated) process to manufacture and service. With almost a million jobs at stake and little to replace them, the long-term implications for the UK economy could be bleak. In addition, 12% of UK exports are car related, and the industry adds roughly £18 billion to the economy each year out of a total £71.6 billion turnover. That represents a lost fortune to the economy (and treasury) as the UK switches to largely importing foreign cars.
Cost of electricity to rise
The AA has highlighted the need for urgent infrastructure updates before the volume of electric cars needed go online. With ministers suggesting a ‘switch over’ across the 2020s as the free market (hopefully) makes the electric car more viable, this leaves little time for the current government (or, it’s suspected they hope, the next one) to install thousands of new charging points across UK roads, update legislation, and, above all, find a way to inject huge surges of power into the national grid to match post-rush hour demand. With the government currently unable to build one power station, further environment regulations preventing the construction of coal, gas or coastal stations, we can expect to see a lot, lot more expensive, inefficient and ugly wind & solar plants on the landscape. In addition, fuel duties currently bring the treasury £27.6 billion per year- almost enough to cover the entire transport bill for the country- which will undoubtedly be added to the cost of electric car ownership somehow.
Farming, haulage, construction and other industrial sectors appear to be unaffected by the 2040 deadline. It’s also unclear whether government agencies, such as the civil or emergency services will be required to abandon fossil-fueled cars. It’s equally unclear whether ministers will need to abandon their £300,000 custom-built Jaguars for a Nissan leaf. What this does mean is that while taxpayer-funded depots will undoubtedly keep police vans and ministerial saloons running smoothly, lack of demand, expensive parts and high fuel costs combined with a thinly-spread population will hurt farmers and those needing maintenance on fossil fuel-driven agricultural and construction vehicles.
Urban bias & costs
That cities are the primary, secondary and tertiary focus of the policy is clear- from highlighting particular areas high in pollution to congestion and a wide range of other urban driving problems, ministers have ignored rural drivers whose needs are simply not met by electric cars. As has been suggested by motorists’ advocacy groups in the past, congestion, not pollutions, is the problem- yet this policy affects all road users. Unable to cover large distances or overcome rough or hilly terrain, most electrics are almost universally designed as ‘city cars’- small, efficient, stylish and compact. And it’s not just those in the country who it’s feared will get an unfair deal- larger cars for families, and vans for the self-employed, are expensive and, currently, rare. The lack of the same second-hand market that exists with traditional cars will mean those seeking to upgrade will face paying three or four times more than they would for a traditional car, even as more and more conditions are imposed on these ‘old fashioned’ polluters.
Some critics have accused the government of ‘kicking the ball further down the road’ by imposing a schedule for change unlikely to carry any immediate policy implications. Others highlight the limited details of the plan, the low value of the current ‘clean air’ package, and the emphasis on pressuring overstretched local authorities to come up with their own solutions. Without further information and no legal requirements to hit the 23-year target, it’s easy to understand why many environmental campaigners are cautious in their optimism over this goal. Nonetheless, such a far-reaching plan with real implications for almost everyone in the UK is sure to attract interest far outweigh such a muted announcement. Future details may help clarify a lot of the points left out of today’s announcement, although it’s with some skepticism that many onlookers will view the plans, perhaps until more information comes out following Parliament’s summer recess.
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