UK petrol and diesel car ban delayed to 2035

The proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been delayed until 2035 – here's what the decision means for drivers...

Mazda 6 driving past a petrol station

The Government's proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been pushed back to 2035. Having been introduced in 2020, the ban was previously set to come into force in 2030.

Announcing the delay, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that although an electric car is sold every 60 seconds in the UK, there are still significant hurdles to choosing one. In a conference today, the Prime Minister cited high costs, practicality concerns from small businesses, and a lack of nationwide charging infrastructure as the main reasons behind the delay.

The Government also confirmed that under the plan all hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars would also be banned from 2035. Previously, the Government said that such cars which are capable of travelling 'significant' distances on electric power would receive a five-year stay of execution. However, that has now been amended, meaning that from 2035, only fully electric cars and vans can be sold from new.

According to official figures, electric cars have accounted for around 16% of new car sales so far in 2023, with hybrids accounting for about 12% and plug-in hybrids 7%. Combined, that means electrified cars have accounted for more than a third of sales.

It’s important to note that only new car and van sales will be affected by the ban – you’ll still be able to buy and sell used cars and vans powered solely by petrol or diesel after 2035.

In this story, we’ll cover the details of the future ban as it now stands, including how it came about, how it affects car buyers, and whether you should still consider buying a new petrol or diesel car in 2023.

Headlines from this story

- The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been pushed back to 2035.

- The five-year stay of execution afforded to hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars has been removed, meaning that only fully electric cars and vans can be sold from 2035.

- You will still be able to drive petrol and diesel-powered cars beyond the ban's introduction, and buy fuel for them as usual. You will also be able to buy used petrol and diesel-powered cars.

Vauxhall Astra Electric static charging

Your petrol and diesel car ban questions answered

Can I still drive my petrol or diesel car?

Yes, even though you won’t be able to buy a new car powered solely by petrol or diesel from the ban's introduction, you’ll still be able to drive your current car if it falls into that category.

While you’ll be able to drive your current car, however, you’ll almost certainly find that it costs you more to run. As clean air zones become more prevalent, it’s likely that taking your current car into a zone will cost you increasing amounts depending on how old your car is. 

Likewise, with electric cars due to start paying road tax from 2025, it’s likely that the bands for older, more polluting vehicles will also be adjusted so that the drivers of those cars pay more tax.

The same applies to drivers of classic cars – you’ll still be able to drive these long after 2035, but whether due to increasing taxation or, eventually, a shortage of petrol and diesel fuel stations, running such cars indefinitely could become problematic.

Is it worth buying a new petrol or diesel car in 2023?

Electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars now suit more drivers than ever before, meaning that if you’re in the market for a new car, we’d strongly suggest you see if one of those types of car would suit your needs. You can even use our free What Fuel? Tool to do this, by answering a few simple questions relating to the sorts of journeys you mostly do.

If you decide that you want to stick with a car powered solely by petrol or diesel, we’d recommend the former. Sales of diesel cars have been plummeting for years, and now represent just 4% of the total car market. 

Diesel cars can still make sense for some drivers covering extremely high mileages, but it’s a slim portion. For most drivers who still want purely combustion power, petrol-powered cars will be the better option.

Will there be enough electric car charging points?

Concerns over the availability and reliability of public car chargers are often cited by drivers looking to go electric. 

The Government recently announced that all public charging points should be 99% reliable and provide real-time updates about availability. Those standards are due to come into force late in 2023, with charging providers facing fines of up to £10,000 per device deemed to be in breach.

At What Car? We also conduct our own tests on the UK’s public charging network. We rated each of the UK’s main charging providers on five key areas: accessibility and location, charging speed, ease of payment, reliability and value for money, and added our scores together with the experiences of more than 2800 electric car owners.

In our tests, Gridserve was judged to be the UK’s best charging provider, with an overall score of 85.2%. Instavolt and FastNed came second and third, with overall scores of 85.1% and 84% respectively.

According to charging map provider Zap Map, there were 48,450 charging stations spread across 29,062 locations as of August 2023. 

Ford E-Transit 2022 front cornering

Does the ban affect vans?

Yes, vans are also affected by the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles. Just like with cars, you won’t be able to buy a new van powered solely by petrol and diesel beyond 2035, with only electric vans being sold new.

Fortunately, there are already plenty of good electric vans to choose from. Our reigning Van of the Year, the Ford E-Transit, has an official range of 217 miles between charges.

Will petrol and diesel fuel still be sold after the ban?

Yes. Although one of the motivations behind the ban is to encourage more drivers to choose electric cars, there will still be a significant percentage of cars on UK roads which will need petrol and diesel fuel to keep running beyond the date the ban is introduced. And since there will still be demand for fuels, you will still be able to buy petrol and diesel long after measures come into force.

You are likely to see some changes to forecourts, however, with more electric charging points and, eventually, fewer fuel pumps. You might also see fuel charges increase as demand decreases.

Peugeot 308 at petrol station

Will petrol cars be worthless after the ban?

In the early years following the petrol and diesel car ban, it’s likely that the values of used petrol cars will suffer due to increased costs and a surplus of supply. However, as those cars reduce in number or become too costly to repair, those surviving petrol cars may find that their values increase.

What does the car industry think?

Even before the delay was confirmed, Ford was making its dissatisfaction known, saying: "Our business needs three things from the UK Government: ambition, commitment and consistency. Any relaxation of 2030 undermines all three."

Similarly, Kia is opposed to the decision, issuing a statement that "it’s disappointing to see a change in a policy the industry was working and investing towards".

On the other hand, while Jaguar Land Rover confirmed that it is "investing £15 billion over the next five years" to electrify its models, it described the Government's decision to revise the end date for the sale of petrol and diesel cars as "pragmatic" and "welcome", because ir "brings the UK in line with other nations".

And Toyota also reacted positively, saying: "Today’s announcement is welcome because it provides the clarity industry has been asking for and recognises that all low emission technologies can have a role to play in a pragmatic vehicle transition."

Traffic on a road

How did the petrol and diesel car ban happen?

When the ban was first discussed in 2017, it was mooted that petrol and diesel cars be axed in 2035, with hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars following in 2040. Then, in November 2020, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought each date forward by five years, accelerating the UK’s move to electric power.

The proposed ban was announced as part of a new package of measures designed to tackle vehicle emissions. Alongside the ban, a new investment plan worth £4bn was revealed, and was planned to be spent on green energy projects, creating around 25,000 jobs in the process.

Government ministers had previously set a target of 2040 for the UK to become fully electric – something they said was necessary for the country to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050. The timeline later moved up to 2035, and then to 2030.

By May 2021, the plan became a talking point again following news that its viability had been called into question by MPs. At the time, ministers said the transition to electric power represented a “huge challenge” for the country, but that the departments responsible for making it happen had “lacked a clear, published plan”.

Among the challenges identified in those criticisms was lowering the cost of electric cars, and improving the reliability and availability of the UK’s charging infrastructure. 

Another factor accelerating the move to electric cars is the advent of more clean air zones and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, designed to help lower emissions in cities. London’s ULEZ zone expanded earlier this year, encompassing most areas inside the M25 motorway. Drivers of petrol and diesel cars which don’t meet Euro 4 and Euro 6 emissions standards respectively will have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to drive into the ULEZ zone – that’s on top of the existing congestion charge.

Earlier this year, more than 40 MPs and peers wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year asking him to confirm if the 2030 deadline was still in place.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch had pushed for the UK’s emissions targets to be pushed back. She believes that currently proposed measures mandating that at least 22% of new cars sold in the UK from 2024 be fully electric (and increasing each year thereafter up until the ban's introduction) should be relaxed. She argued that this would give current electric car charging infrastructure time to catch up with demand, as well as increase reliability across the network.

There were also concerns that the proposed ban could become an election issue in 2024, when the next General Election is scheduled to be held. Labour's support of the expansion of London’s ULEZ zone was partly blamed for the Conservatives holding the constituency of Uxbridge in a recent by-election.

Following the loss, former Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost said: “the lesson is surely that green policies are very unpopular when there’s a direct cost to people”.

A recent survey of almost 700 conservative party members by ConservativeHome found that 83% opposed the ban.

Labour originally supported the ban, and joined calls for it to be brought forwards to 2030 in 2020, and Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has announced measures designed to increase the transition to electric cars, specifically by scaling up battery production in the UK. Labour has also confirmed that it would keep the 2030 date if it was in power.

As the UK moves towards a general election in 2024, the proposed ban could become a decisive issue for voters.

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