Petrol and diesel ban by 2030?

Published:  16 November, 2020

The government is poised to accelerate the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, it has been reported, with the Prime Minister expected to officially move the deadline to 2030 later this week.

The cut-off had already been moved to 2035 in February, and there were even discussions of 2032. The 2035 deadline may still stay in place for hybrids, which were previously facing a total ban at the same time as internal combustion engine vehicles.

The move is part of the government’s overall plan to make the UK carbon-neutral by 2050, but significant challenges remain.

Infrastructure is still lacking in many places, which is holding back sales, despite impressive increases, from an admittedly low base. Car sales figures for October 2020 released by the SMMT on 5 November, showed that battery electric vehicles made up just 2.2% of the total sold in the month. Plug-in hybrids also represented 2.2% of the total, with more conventional hybrids fielding 5.5%. By contrast, 61.9% of car sold in the month were petrol-powered, and 23.7% were diesel.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes observed: “Carmakers are leading the charge to zero emission motoring with billions invested in new models fuelling growing consumer interest, but they can’t do it alone. To fully electrify the market, and safeguard our critical manufacturing base and jobs, we will need more than an arbitrary date. It will require a Herculean effort from government, including a truly world-beating package of incentives to encourage uptake of battery electric and essential hybrid stepping-stone vehicles – and the mandating of massive investment in charging infrastructure.   “We need an industry not just a market. So, we must avoid job losses in our manufacturing heartlands across the UK by improving the investment conditions so we can retain our competitiveness and ensure the UK fulfils its ambitions to be a world leader in electrified mobility. That is the announcement and commitment we are awaiting.”

There are also hurdles for the aftermarket to overcome. According to figures from the IMI, there are approximately 245,000 mechanics, working on 38 million registered vehicles in the UK. In October there were 383,000 plug-in cars and vans registered, which is predicted to increase to somewhere between 2.7 to 10.6 million by 2030. If the higher rate came to pass, the IMI has calculated that the UK would need around 70,500 qualified technicians to support this vehicle parc.

At present, the IMI believes there are somewhere between 13,000 and 20,000 techs currently qualified to work on electric vehicles, which means a requirement of between 50,000 and 57,000 technicians by 2030.

IMI CEO Steve Nash commented “The rumours are now strong that a 2030 ban for the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be announced this week. And whilst we haven’t seen the detail yet, we will be concerned that a key factor in achieving success will be missing. Currently around 5% of UK automotive technicians are adequately trained to work on electric vehicles. How do you ramp up electric vehicle adoption if the myriad of users – from private motorists to fleets operating cars and vans, blue light vehicles and more - can’t be confident they will be able to access the expertise to service and repair these vehicles safely? And if the critical mass of skills doesn’t exist, the support infrastructure for zero emissions will be undermined too; insurers will keep premiums high if they can’t be confident they will be able to access a repair network that matches need.

“To achieve its goal, government has to recognise that amongst all of those calling for assistance in funding – from manufacturers to those creating the charging network – the basic fundamental of accredited skills needs to come near the front of the queue. Users of electrified vehicles want to know that they can hand over their vehicle to someone who has the right skills. Those who aren’t properly trained or equipped to work on electrified vehicles would be risking serious injury or fatality.

“The IMI TechSafe standards, endorsed by OLEV at the end of 2019, mean that electrified vehicle users can access the IMI Professional Register to check the electric vehicle technical competencies of technicians at their local garage, but we are currently a long way off achieving a critical mass of technicians qualified, with COVID-19 setting us back significantly in reaching optimum numbers in time for 2035, let alone 2030.

Steve added: “Government action is needed urgently to encourage automotive employers to re-ignite their EV training plans.”

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