A while back one of our many recent prime ministers decided – pretty much on a whim – to bring the date forward when petrol / diesel cars could no longer be sold in the UK. Rather than select 2035 which was the date chosen by the EU, they went for 2030. This was, presumably to show the €urocrats and the Earth's green glitterati that we were more ambitious, committed, zealous and dedicated than they were. Good international playground politics no doubt, but questionable domestically.
In addition, the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate was introduced to require car manufacturers to increase the proportion of EVs that they sold year by year, with hefty fines if they did not do this. This was a novel twin approach; not so much carrot and stick as stick and stick.
Now one of the sticks has been taken away in the PM's announcement on Wednesday that the deadline for selling new cars has been put back to 2035. It has been amusing to see how many of the usually pro-€U commentariat have bemoaned this as a betrayal – with a lot of this coming before the speech was even made. None of them seem to criticise the €U Commission for a 2035 deadline which has recently been watered down in an attempt to save the German car giants from Chinese imports, but that's a matter for their conscience. Government criticised for adopting €U Commission targets. What is the world coming to?
The stick to beat the car manufacturers – the ZEV – is still in place, however, which will mean that the number of petrol / diesel vehicles available to buy will drop as we approach 2030 and affect what can be bought. The BBC has the details but the gist is:
From January, just over a fifth of vehicles sold must be electric, with the target expected to hit 80% by 2030. If they fail to hit the target, manufacturers will either face fines of £15,000 per vehicle, or have to buy a surplus credit from a company that has sold lots of electric vehicles.
Ian Plummer, commercial director of Auto Trader, said that to meet targets, car makers would be forced to explore ways to attract buyers, adding "it's likely price will need to play a big part in this [with] Electric vehicles carry[ing] a hefty price premium, so if prices come down, they'll suddenly become a far more attractive proposition for a greater pool of car buyers."
Motor industry analyst Philip Nothard, insight and strategy director at Cox Automotive, told the BBC the targets for electric car sales was "arguably a greater influence" on the market than delaying the ban on new internal combustion engine vehicles. He added that because many carmakers were already committed to hybrid and electric-only ranges based on the government's previous 2030 policy, greener vehicles might be more attractive to buyers in terms of price because consumers would face a "limited choice" of new petrol and diesel cars, causing the prices of those vehicles to rise.
Motor industry sources said the impact of the ban being delayed was expected to be limited. They said the targets on electric car sales meant it was likely that only a fifth of new cars sold by 2030 would be wholly petrol or diesel, with many drivers opting for hybrids.
As I suspected, perhaps, one stick will prove quite sufficient to promote the transition to EVs. Meanwhile, the poor will have a modicum of protection against enforced price hikes.
What's not to like?