UK petrol and diesel ban, plus hybrid ban in 2040

Sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars banned from 2040 & many barred from London's roads too - latest details

Dominic Tobin
May 4, 2018

Petrol, diesel, and now most hybrid cars are expected to be banned from sale in 2040 under government proposals to be published later this year.

The current Toyota Prius, as well as hybrid versions of the Hyundai Ioniq, Mitsubishi Outlander and Volkswagen Golf are among the vehicles that could not be sold under the reported plans.

The air quality measures, to take effect in 22 years' time, are rumoured to include a rule that any hybrid car must be capable of travelling for at least 50 miles on electric power, without using its petrol or diesel engine, but this has not been confirmed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

From 2040, new cars and vans that don't comply with the reported restrictions will no longer be sold. Drivers won’t have to scrap their existing petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles immediately, as second-hand sales are not expected to be affected.

Only electric cars will escape the axe and remain on sale, along with any hybrids that meet the criteria. It's estimated that fewer than 2% of current cars would qualify, although they will be replaced with improved models long before 2040.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) warned that the proposals could "wreak havoc" on the new car market and confuse buyers. However, the anticipated policy is more than two decades away and won't have an effect for some time. The DfT has denied an outright ban on hybrid cars and said that the details of the ban had not yet been agreed.

The policy comes on top of plans to impose surcharges on diesel drivers, including daily charges to drive in London.


The government announced a 2040 petrol and diesel car ban last year and has pledged to set out the details in a strategy document entitled: "Pathway to Zero Emission Road Transport", due shortly. There are growing rumours that this will include a ban on most hybrids, which many had assumed would not be targeted.

This will affect conventional hybrid cars, which have a petrol and diesel engine, as well as a motor that recovers energy usually lost during braking, and uses it to provide extra power when needed.

It will also impact plug-in hybrid cars. These have larger batteries that can be charged from a socket, allowing them to run longer on electric power - typically for 15-20 miles - before their petrol or diesel engine takes over. Many of these are currently seen as so green that the government subsidises them with a grant for new car buyers. They include the Mini Countryman Cooper S E.

Figures from the SMMT show that fewer than 2% of new cars sold today could continue on the market in 2040. By then, however, vehicles will be several generations ahead with more advanced technology and the effect of the law may not seem as drastic.

There's a hybrid version of the BMW i3 (above) with an electric range of around 120 miles. Volvo has said every new car that it launches from 2019 will be electric or hybrid. In the same year, Mini will launch an electric version of its hatchback. Volkswagen plans to sell 1m electric cars a year by 2025.

“Vehicle manufacturers will increasingly offer electrified versions of their vehicles giving consumers ever more choice but industry cannot dictate the pace of change nor levels of consumer demand," said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.  "Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realise this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports.

"If Government wants the UK to be a global leader in zero emission transport it must provide a world class package of incentives and support to make this a credible policy. Consumers need clear information about the right vehicles for their driving needs.”  

In addition to the national ban, London’s Mayor has published proposals for a zero-emission zone in central London by 2025, which would only be open to electric and hydrogen cars. This may include some plug-in hybrid cars that can run on electric power alone.

This ban on petrol and diesel cars is planned to expand across the capital by 2050. Other authorities, tackling highly-polluted roads, will be able to take similar measures under the government's air quality strategy.

Car manufacturers are ploughing billions of pounds of investment into electric cars but it's not clear whether there will be enough charging points and generating capacity to support a nation reliant on electric cars: the air quality strategy has allocated £100m for charging points, but a national network may require further government funding.

The ban on petrol and diesel cars brings Britain in line with France, which also announced a similar policy - also from 2040.


Petrol and diesel ban - your questions answered

Which petrol and diesel cars will be banned?

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.

Some hybrids may also be banned, but the indications so far are that most will be exempt.

Which hybrid cars will be banned?

Current indications suggest that only hybrid cars with a range of 50 miles or more could be sold new. This would almost certainly ban the most 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.

Plug-in hybrid cars using current technology would also be affected. With bigger batteries that can be charged up, many these vehicles can go for 20 miles on battery power before their petrol or diesel engine is required. There's a plug-in version of the Prius, and the technology is offered by many other manufacturers including Mini, Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover, Volvo and Hyundai. All of these vehicles would be affected.

However, there are already hybrids that would beat the rumoured ban, 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: should I sell my car?

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.

Petrol and diesel ban: 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.

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.


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