The end of the car as we know it?

Today was a milestone in motoring history. The government sent shockwaves through the automotive industry by announcing it was going to ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. This groundbreaking policy, which follows a wave of announcements ushering in an exciting era of EVs, is part of the government’s much-anticipated clean air plan.

Poor air quality which, according to some figures is the “biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK”, has been the subject of a lengthy high court legal battle led by environmental law firm Client Earth.


Air Pollution

Naturally, we had lots of questions… what else is included in the clean air plan? What are we doing to mitigate the risks in the short-term? What about other sources of pollution, beyond transport? Do we have the right infrastructure? So we went out and found the answers. To save you time doing the same thing, we’ve included our findings below. Enjoy.

What else is included in the clean air plan?

Alongside the 2040 ban, the government has also announced a £255m fund to help councils combat air pollution, including the potential for charging zones for the most polluting vehicles. The first £40m of this will be made available immediately. The measures have stopped short of an expected diesel scrappage scheme, which has prompted a backlash from environmentalists who suggest the plans don’t go far enough.

What about short-term measures?

While the measures were hailed as a step in the right direction, the 2040 deadline was met with more of a breath of disappointment rather than delight. The deadline does little to affect change in the short term. Some even argue that by 2040, EVs will have already out-competed their petrol and diesel counterparts due to falling costs and consumer demand. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas welcomed the ban but said we “need an urgent plan to cut air pollution *now*”.

Air Pollution

What about other sources of pollution?

The result of the government’s drawn-out court battle was an order to produce a comprehensive plan to tackle air pollution. However, today’s announcement is far from comprehensive – it fails to address other sources of pollution from construction and farming, to name just two. Some clean air campaigners suggest this announcement uses the 2040 date to distract from other failings in short-term pollution policy.

Do we have the right infrastructure?

The rapid growth of electric vehicles has long been a concern for the National Grid who have repeatedly warned that our current energy infrastructure will be unable to cope with the increased demand posed by EVs. However, the good news is that earlier this week the government announced plans to improve our energy infrastructure, create more flexibility and save us money. Concerns are still raised, however, about charging points. The AA said significant investment would be needed to install charging points across the country.

Air Pollution

So, it looks like the EV revolution is upon us. This petrol and diesel ban will go some way to accelerate the transition, but do the measures go far enough? The ban is welcomed almost universally by air quality campaigners when it comes to the long-term impacts. However, for the short-term the picture is a little less encouraging with pollution set to remain at illegal levels and largely unchecked. What we can all agree on is that lower emissions and the transition to a low-carbon future are now firmly on the news agenda.

We’ve worked alongside some inspiring change-makers in the transport industry, including CNG Fuels and Riversimple. To hear from some of the UK’s leading transport pioneers, such as Stephen Irish, co-founder of Hyperdrive Innovation, visit our Pioneer blog series.

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