Government set to force even faster sales of electric cars

New proposals will mandate manufacturers to sell more electric cars and vans or face heavy fines...

Shell Recharge charging point with Tesla Model 3 21-plate

Vehicle manufacturers will be forced to sell an increasing number of electric cars and vans from 2024, as the UK Government pushes to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The proposals would mean that 22% of vehicles sold in the UK must be electric from 2024, with the proportion then ramping up thereafter. The outlined schedule would mean 52% of sales would need to be fully electric by 2028 and 80% by 2030, the date that has been set for the end of new petrol and diesel cars sales.

Failure to hit the targets would result in heavy fines for the manufacturers.

Thereafter only fully electric and hybrid vehicles will be allowed to be sold – although the Government has delayed a decision on defining what will constitute a hybrid. It is expected to demand any such car can travel a significant distance on electric power alone, suggesting it will most likely be a plug-in hybrid vehicle (like the class-leading Lexus NX 450h, pictured below), with a small battery that supplements a petrol engine.

Lexus NX 450h 2022 front

While the plans and subsequent consultations for the changes were set in process two years ago, the Department of Transport document detailing the proposals notes the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels as an ongoing security threat.

It reads: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that continued reliance on fossil fuels makes the UK susceptible to geopolitical issues when those issues impact on global fuel production.

“The requirement to sell an ever increasing number of zero emission vehicles that, crucially, can be powered by domestic renewable energy sources, is vital for the UK’s future energy security.”

However, the car industry is urging caution, arguing that manufacturers will only be able to sell the cars if buyers want them. It highlights the fact electric vehicles are set to be more expensive and, for some buyers, less convenient to use than combustion engined equivalents for several years to come.

Reading and drinking coffee while waiting for electric car to charge

Mike Hawes, chief executive of industry trade body The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Regulation must encourage consumers to purchase, not just compel manufacturers to produce. The danger is that consumers will lack the incentive to purchase these new vehicles.”

The Government has been steadily decreasing the size of the grant available to those looking to buy an electric car, most recently cutting it from £2500 to £1500 while also reducing the number of models eligible.

Despite this, electric car registrations have grown significantly in the UK in recent years, accounting for 12% of the market in 2021. That trend has continued in 2022, with March’s registrations alone matchings those for the whole of 2019.

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Read more: The best and worst electric cars 2022 >>

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