As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as developing economies industrialise, more combustion engine vehicles appear on international roads, and more and more commodities are manufactured using unsustainable methods to accompany the growing global population, concern over the future of our planet has arisen, with scientists, activists, and members of the general public exerting pressure on international governments to reduce emissions. The reaction in the motoring industry has been mainly beneficial, with many companies and manufacturers introducing ranges featuring electric vehicles and plug in hybrids, that are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and even more innovative alternatives such as hydrogen powered vehicles. However, the rate at which companies are transitioning to electric vehicles and the growing public demand for them is not being satiated by the availability of the necessary infrastructure (such as charging points) nor by the affordability of electric vehicles, which still remain expensive, although efforts are being made to make them more economical.
Many governments have already announced their intentions to outlaw all internal combustion engine vehicles, in which France, Spain, and the UK in 2017 proclaimed their desire to do this by 2040. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that this date was being moved forward significantly to 2030, putting the UK only behind Norway in climate ambitions, in which the sale of all diesel and petrol engine vehicles that constitute together over 90% of vehicles in the UK, will be prohibited in 2030, whilst hybrid vehicles able to achieve a predetermined “zero-emission range” will remain in dealerships and showrooms until 2035.
Boris Johnson has already stated that £4 billion will be invested by the government to facilitate the implementation of his 10 point plan that will “create, support, and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050”. In his recent announcement, Boris Johnson has also dedicated £1.3 billion to the construction of hundreds more electric charging points and other infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles. Furthermore, £582 million is also being reserved for government subsidies intended to make electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids even more affordable and available to the masses, as well as a further £500 million for the production and manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles inside the UK. The inevitable proliferation in demand for electricity that this will generate will be provided by a series of new nuclear power plants and generators, which £525 million will be allocated to.
However, this has been met with some scepticism, with concern over whether electric vehicles will be of a reasonable enough price to be favoured over petrol or diesel engined vehicles, or if production of electric vehicles, and implementation of infrastructure will be sufficient by the 2030 deadline. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has also called this acceleration of the deadline for the elimination of combustion engine vehicles “extremely concerning” and “with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment”. Ethical concerns also surround the electric batteries the government hopes to manufacture, with the necessary cobalt deriving from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that condones the use of child workers, which is considered to be immoral exploitation in the UK.
Nevertheless, many have also lauded the government’s attempts to expedite the transition towards e-mobility, with Edmund King (President of the AA) calling the government’s plan “incredibly ambitious”, yet “welcome”, whilst the SMMT have also announced that they share the “government’s ambition for leadership in decarbonising road transport”. This is all part of the government’s wider £12 billion scheme to put the UK at the frontlines of the fight against climate change and to substitute fossil fuels and hydrocarbons for more renewable energy sources, including in transport, whilst creating an alleged 250,000 jobs in the process. The Labour Party have criticised the current government for not investing nearly enough, in which Ed Miliband, who is the shadow business secretary claimed that Labour wanted £30 billion to be invested in the renewable energy sector that would generate at least 400,000 jobs.
Whether the outlawing of all combustion engine vehicles by 2030 is a critical overestimation or not ambitious enough, it is a crucial step towards the “green industrial revolution” that the Prime Minister envisions, and the transition towards e-mobility that will help to save our planet from the devastating effects of unfettered climate change. It will require collaboration between and considerable investment from both the government and the industry, as well as the willingness of the public to make the change to electric. Therefore, the complete electrification of the transport sector by 2030 is entirely feasible and possible, the question is will the required effort, investment, and production power be expended to ensure that it is achieved?
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