New petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to be banned from 2035

Ban on sale of new petrols, diesels and hybrids pulled forward five years - everything you need to know about how it will affect you, and how to prepare...

Only electrified cars will be sold in UK from 2040

UK car buyers will be able to buy only new electric cars from 2035, the Government will announce today, with the sale of petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models banned.

The announcement brings forward a previously declared date of 2040 for the ban of solely fossil-fuelled vehicles; it also confirms that hybrid and plug-in hybrid models – which are powered by a combination of a petrol or diesel engine and electricity and can travel for up to 78 miles on electric power alone – will be phased out. 

Pulling the date forward five years sets a challenge to car makers to provide enough electric cars to meet demand, with battery shortages currently delaying supply of some vehicles, such as the former What Car? Car of the Year Award-winning Kia e-Niro, and to infrastructure providers to deliver enough charging points when sales ramp up from 1.6% of all new car sales today to 100% in 15 years' time.

The Government has brought the date forward because it says 2040 will be too late if the UK wants to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.

In a speech later today at a UN summit on climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say: “As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions.

“There can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a global Britain is prouder to serve."

If the proposed ban is approved following a public consultation, new car buyers will only be able to buy cars and vans powered by electricity, either by charging from a power point or created by hydrogen.

Audi E-tron 2019 UK charging socket

What has been the reaction?

AA president Edmund King cautioned that a shortage of batteries could challenge the industry in providing enough cars, saying: “Drivers support measures to clean up air quality and reduce CO2 emissions but these stretched targets are incredibly challenging."

The RAC's head of policy Nicholas Lyes said: " We are not surprised by the Government’s plans to bring forward the date to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035 as there is an indisputable need to tackle climate change.

“A more ambitious target should be the catalyst for faster change, but there are clearly many hurdles to cross. Manufacturers face a great challenge in switching their production from conventional engines to cleaner electric technology. More electric vehicles will also require a great deal of investment in charging infrastructure – particularly for those who rely on on-street parking outside their homes."

Friends of the Earth's Mike Childs told the BBC: “A new 2035 target will still leave the UK in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere," he said.

Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has called the move "extremely concerning," saying "Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020. However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment." The trade body also labelled the UK's charging infrastructure as currently being "woefully inadequate."

What does this mean for me?

The clock is ticking for petrol, diesel and hybrid cars, with 15 years at the very most left for buyers to purchase these vehicles new. In the short term, don't expect much to change, since most of us will change cars at least once more in that time.

However, as we get closer to the ban, expect to see larger discounts on any remaining new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans, and more incentives designed to get you into a fully electric model instead. 

As is already happening today, too, you'll see more and more fully electric models go on sale, to make sure that buyers have as much choice as possible and get used to the idea of going electric.

Also expect to see continuing investment in the UK's charging infrastructure, with more charging points popping up in your local area.

Ford Kuga charging

How many electric cars are sold today?

In 2019, 37,850 solely electric cars were sold in the UK, representing just 1.6% of the market. Although sales of such cars grew by 144% in 2019, that's because in the previous year, sales accounted for just 0.7% of the market.

When it comes to plug-in hybrid vehicles, sales of those cars were down by almost 18% in 2019 compared with the previous year, with 34,734 sold. The decline in plug-in hybrids has been put down to supply issues relating to the introduction of the WLTP emissions tests, and the removal of the government's grant for such cars.

How will this affect used cars?

The headline announcement about a ban on the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035 at the latest probably won't affect values, in the short term. However, this announcement is a part of a larger air quality strategy from the Government, which elsewhere expresses support for the levying of fees on older vehicles, especially diesels.

It's likely that this will have an effect on the values of older diesel cars as more towns and cities introduce such charges, in the vein of London's T-Charge and Ultra Low-Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Diesel car values are slipping relative to their petrol counterparts in some areas of the market, and this trend is likely to continue as more and more owners realise that choosing a diesel car might lead to significant extra charges if they use them to commute.

Buying a petrol-powered car instead would seem to be the most logical option. But they're vastly fewer in number in some classes, most notably executive saloons and large SUVs.

Our advice, therefore, is to sit down and do the sums, taking into account your mileage, the cost of the fuel, the cost of the charges you might face, and the risk of diesel models dropping farther in value.

For the highest-mileage drivers, diesel will still make the most sense. But if you don't do enough miles to justify the extra cost those new charges might add to your motoring outgoings, putting your money into a petrol or electrified car might soon become a safer bet.

The best and worst electric cars

Does the idea of a ban on new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars have you thinking about going electric? Read on below and over the next few pages for our top 10 picks.

10. Tesla Model X

Save money on a new Tesla Model X with What Car? >>

On paper, Tesla's all-electric family SUV seems to be the dream all-rounder, combining the luxury of a Range Rover Sport with the green credentials of an electric car. In practice, its low running costs and practical interior are hard to fault, and even entry-level versions aren't short on pace, but parts of its interior do feel a little cheap given the price.

Read our full Tesla Model X review >>

9. Seat Mii Electric

Save money on a new Seat Mii Electric with What Car? >>

Seat Mii Electric 2019 LHD front cornering shot

If you're looking for a small electric car to primarily use in the city, the Mii Electric should definitely be on your shortlist. It might not have the range to match larger electric cars, but that means costs are kept sensible, and we reckon 161 miles on a full charge should still be enough for most buyers. 

Read our full Seat Mii Electric review >>

8. Mercedes EQC

Save money on a new Mercedes EQC with What Car? >>

Mercedes-Benz EQC front three quarters

The EQC is a brilliant choice if you want to maximise the peace and quiet offered by going electric: it really is incredibly hushed on the move. But while it's generally comfortable on motorways, it doesn't ride as well as the very best rivals and its range is someway off the Jaguar I-Pace's.

Read our full Mercedes EQC review >>

Next: more of our favourite electric cars >>

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