The sale of new petrol and diesel cars should be banned in the UK sooner than 2040, a group of MPs suggested.
The Government had said that only new electrified vehicles – which include hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, as well as fully electric vehicles – will be sold in the UK from 2040 as part of plans to improve air quality and reduce emissions. However, a group of MPs said that the plan lacks "ambition" and the deadline should be brought forward, possibly to 2030.
Specifically, the Government has been urged to match its air quality plans to more stringent targets put forward by other countries. Several German cities have proposed plans to outlaw the most polluting diesel cars, following similar moves by Paris, Athens and Madrid, while in Scotland proposals have suggested banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes said the report "shows there have been improvements in air quality in the UK but more needs to be done. Road transport is a major contributor, which is why the UK automotive industry is investing billions in technology and other measures to help address the challenge.
"A Clean Air Fund worth £220 million has already been set up by Government, funded by changes to vehicle taxation. In addition, vehicle manufacturers are funding scrappage schemes themselves to get the older vehicles off the road."
Hawes added that continued investment in the latest low-emission vehicles was needed and that the fastest improvements to air quality would be seen "through the uptake of the latest technology”. Diesel cars accounted for 42% of all new cars sold in the UK in 2017, a 17% decline on 2016's figure.
However, What Car?'s own True MPG tests have shown that some modern diesels are cleaner than their petrol counterparts, and we recently named the Volvo XC40 in D4 R-Design specification as our Car of the Year for 2018. Indeed, the XC40's D4 diesel engine emitted less NOx than many petrol rivals.
The MPs' report also suggested asking car makers to bring forward the date when they would sell solely electrified vehicles. Several manufacturers have already set dates for this; Volvo, for example, has said that from next year all of its new cars will be electrified in some form.
The report called the UK's air quality a "national health emergency". Around 40,000 deaths each year are attributed to air quality – a problem that costs the country an estimated £20 billion annually. "It is unacceptable that successive governments have failed to protect the public from poisonous air," the report noted.
It also criticised the air quality plans put forward last year, branding them as an excercise in "box-ticking" and arguing that the Government has so far not produced a plan that "adequately addresses the scale of the challenge. Nor has it demonstrated the national leadership needed to bring about a step change in how the problem of air quality is tackled."
Among the report's suggestions is a new 'clean air' act that would streamline legislation relating to air quality.
Introducing the What Fuel? tool
Our new What Fuel? tool can show you whether a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric car would best suit your needs based on your answers to four easy questions – it takes less than a minute.