UK 2040 petrol car ban and diesel car ban

Sale of new diesel and petrol cars banned from 2040. Full details, including a partial hybrid ban & zero emission zones

Dominic Tobin
Oct 19, 2018

New petrol, diesel, and many hybrid cars will be banned from sale in 2040 under a government plan to cut air pollution and boost Britain's electric car industry.

Ministers have also set a target that one in two new cars should be electric-or hydrogen-powered in twelve years' time, ahead of the ban being introduced a decade later.

The policy was outlined in the government's Road to Zero strategy document, published in July. Full details of the legislation haven't yet been finalised but the major points are listed beow

What is the petrol and diesel car ban? Key details

  • Sale of new petrol, diesel and many hybrid cars banned from 2040
  • Second-hand petrol and diesel cars can still be driven, bought and sold 
  • New hybrid cars likely to need a 25 mile+ electric range to escape the ban
  • Government grant for new electric cars to continue until at least 2020
  • More charging points in new-build homes and lamp-posts for on-street charging


The ban brings puts Britain in line with other major countries, including France, which has also pledged to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040. India has set a target of 2030 and Norway is aiming for new cars to be exclusively zero-emission from 2025.


At the same time, cities are planning to introduce zero-emission zones (Oxford plans a small scheme in 2020 and London from 2025), which are likely to be closed to vehicles that run solely on petrol or diesel. These moves mean that manufacturers will be forced to accelerate the development and production of cars to comply with the future legislation.

Electric cars are likely to have a longer range between charges, to become more affordable and have the ability to be charged much faster; hydrogen cars, which can be refuelled as quickly as a petrol car may be commonplace, and hybrid cars should be able to travel further on electric power alone. By 2040, there's also a fair chance hat they will be driving themselves.


Petrol and diesel car ban: which cars are affected?

New cars and vans powered only by a petrol or diesel engine and no hybrid technology will be withdrawn from sale in 2040.

But that's assuming that there are any of these cars still being produced. Volvo and Mercedes have said that all of their vehicles will be hybrids in the near-future, and almost every car company has plans for a vast expansion of its hybrid and electric models.

The most dramatic change on January 1, 2040 may be that a handful of outdated cars are no longer available when new. It's not currently thought that second-hand sales will be affected, but even if they were, the policy is 22 years away and almost all cars currently on the road will have been scrapped by then.

As well as fully electric- or hydrogen-powered cars, the government is expected to allow the continued sale of plug-in hybrid cars after 2040. Using a large battery, which can be recharged, along with a petrol or diesel engine, these vehicles can travel for several miles on a single charge. Once the batteries are exhausted, the engine takes over.

The government's strategy document states that fully-charged cars with a electric range of 25 miles wouldn't require the engine on 94 per cent of all journeys, hinting that this range may be the minimum required from hybrids in 2040. It's hardly unacheivable, given that many cars, including the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV already meet this figure.

Allowing the sale of new hybrids should mean that there's no reduction in the range of cars that are available. There are already large hybrid sport utility vehicles (SUVs) such as the Range Rover PHEV and Volvo XC90 T8, as well as hybrid supercars. McLaren has announced that every car that it makes will be hybrid by 2025.

However, conventional hybrid cars with a smaller battery pack won't qualify, as their electric power is designed more as a power boost alongside the engine when accelerating. It'll mean that the standard Toyota Prius hybrid, as well as the Lexus RX450h, would not be eligible under the new rules.


Should I sell my car to beat the ban?

At the moment, there’s no need to do anything. There are no plans that would force owners to scrap their petrol, diesel or hybrid cars, even if you won’t be able to buy a new one. And that won’t happen for another 22 years. The chances are you’ll sell your current car anyway, long before then.

Even the more imminent issue of zero emission zones are unlikely to pose a major obstacle to drivers for some years. Oxford plans to begin with a small, mainly pedestrianised area in the centre, which will expand slightly in 2025 before expanding across much of the city centre in 2025. Similarly, London's zero emission zone is expected to cover a small part of the capital and is not expected to be city-wide until 2050.


Should I buy a new petrol or diesel car?

The government's plans shouldn't have any effect on your plans, given we're so far away from the date of the ban, so there's no reason why you shouldn't buy a petrol or diesel vehicle.

It's worth taking a few factors into consideration: buying a diesel car that was first registered before September 2015 could leave you vulnerable to forthcoming charges to drive through inner-city clean air zones and London's ultra low emission zone, as these vehicles may not meet the latest emission regulations. Only those that do will be exempt from many charges.

There's also the issue of whether news of the ban, additional charges and zero emission zones could lead to a lack of demand for diesel models in particular, and a reduction in their value. If you are planning to take out finance, then leasing, or a personal contract puchase (PCP) plan will protect you against an unexpectedly high loss of value.


Should I buy an electric car?

It’s not necessary at the moment but as prices fall and batteries improve, electric vehicles are expected to become viable alternative to petrol and diesel cars. You might find yourself buying one on its merits long before the ban is introduced.

For example, a wave of upmarket electric SUVs are arriving, led by the Jaguar I-Pace, which will soon be followed by the Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQ C. There will be an electric version of the Mini Hatchback next year, and the sporty Polestar 1 from Volvo's electric sister brand.

By 2040, you may also have the choice of buying a hydrogen car. At the moment, these are faster to fill up than electric cars are to charge and can travel several hundred miles on a single tank. Their cost and lack of filling stations make them an unrealistic option for now.


Which hybrid cars will be banned?

Current indications suggest that only hybrid cars with a range of 25 miles or more could be sold new. This would almost certainly ban many common hybrids, such as the standard Toyota Prius, which have a petrol or diesel engine and also generate electricity from energy usually lost during braking. The electricity is used to run a motor that provides extra power when accelerating, saving fuel. These cars can rarely travel for more than two miles (and then only at slow speeds) on electric power alone.

Some plug-in hybrid cars using current technology would also be affected. With bigger batteries that can be charged up, most of these vehicles can go for at least 20 miles on battery power before their petrol or diesel engine is required. However, the minimum limit looks likely to be set at around 25 miles, so a few would be affected if the rules were in place now.

Even if the limit was set higher at 50 miles, there are already hybrids that would qualify, including the BMW i3, which is available with a small motorbike engine that charges the car's battery when it gets low. A new London taxi also has a range of over 60 miles.

 Petrol and diesel ban: What are the proposed 2032 plans?

A report by Parliament's business committee called the current plans to ban petrol and diesel car sales by 2040 "vague and unambitious". This committee, made up of MPs, also called for the government to bring "a clear, precise target for new sales of cars and vans to be truly zero emission by 2032."

This is by no means a done deal, and has received a fair amount of criticism from the motor industry. Most of the criticism states that the 2032 plans are too ambitious, especially considering the recent announcement by the government that it will cut the Plug-in Car Grant, making some electric vehicles more expensive to buy.


Read more about:

Latest advice

  1. Breakdown cover for older cars

  2. Renault Zoe battery

  3. Renault Zoe charge time