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What will happen to Petrol Cars after 2030 in the UK?

In this article we’ll explore why petrol cars are so bad for the environment, what the UK Government is doing to decarbonise the transport sector and what the rules mean for UK car owners.
4x4 car on road with lavender fields

Petrol cars consume non-renewable fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide emissions; a greenhouse gas that is incredibly harmful for the environment and one of the driving forces behind climate change and global warming. 

Given the UK Government's legal 2050 target of reaching net zero emissions, there is no other alternative for the transport sector - it’s going to have to decarbonise. The UK Government has recognised the incompatibility of the transportation sector when it comes to net zero targets and has moved its ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars forward. From 2030 new petrol and diesel cars will no longer be able to be sold in the UK. 

👉In this article we’ll explore why petrol cars are so bad for the environment, what the UK Government is doing to decarbonise the transport sector and what the rules mean for UK car owners.

🚗 Why are petrol cars so bad for the environment?

Alongside diesel cars, petrol cars are one of the main sources of transportation carbon dioxide emissions - in the UK, road transport (the majority of which is passenger cars) is the most significant source of carbon emissions and accounts for around 90% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. What’s worse is that carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas that’s emitted. The fumes from petrol cars also contain methane and nitrous oxide; and although these are released by petrol cars in smaller quantities, they actually heat the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide. 

And it’s not just the environment that suffers from the emissions of petrol cars, it’s human health too. According to the Royal College of Physicians, the exhaust fumes from vehicles contribute to the early deaths of around 40,000 people in the UK every year!

This is why it’s so important that we take steps to eliminate heavy polluting vehicles that use fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel from our roads. Unless we work to decarbonise our transport sector it will be impossible for the UK to reach its net zero targets
To learn more about vehicle emissions and their impact on our planet, check out another one of Greenly’s articles here on the topic.

car parked at the side of a country road with hills

🇬🇧 What has the UK Government done to remove petrol cars from roads?

The UK Government has introduced a ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. With the sale of hybrid cars being banned from 2035. 

What this means is that after 2030 consumers in the UK will have a choice between battery-electric vehicles or hydrogen powered cars (provided that technology has advanced to allow for this). It will be impossible to purchase a new car that runs on petrol or diesel after this date. 

The UK Government initially announced the ban in 2017, and proposed a deadline of 2040 for the ban of petrol and diesel cars. However, it was criticised for being “vague and unambitious” by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. This prompted the UK Government to move the implementation date of the ban forward and in 2020 it was announced that new petrol and diesel cars (the most heavily emitting cars) would be banned from sale starting in 2030, and that hybrid models would be banned from 2035. 

The ban will make a significant difference when it comes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles in the UK, with almost zero emissions from the point of use (provided electricity used to power the car is produced from renewable sources) with the main exception being particulate released by tyres and brakes.

What about second hand cars?

Second hand cars are not affected by the UK Government ban on petrol and diesel cars since it applies to new cars only. This means that it will still be possible to purchase a second hand car that runs on fossil fuels even after 2030.

What about other vehicle types?

Hybrids are vehicles that use an electric motor alongside a petrol or diesel engine, therefore they’re not as bad for the environment as petrol or diesel vehicles, however since they still use fossil fuels they don’t align with the UK’s net zero ambitions. Therefore, new hybrid vehicles are banned from sale starting in 2035, and even then, between 2030 and 2035 only hybrid models that can drive a ‘significant distance’ on electricity will be permitted to be sold. (Note: the meaning of significant distance has yet to be defined). 

Trucks and other commercial vehicles are also not exempt from the UK Government’s efforts to decarbonise the UK’s transport sector. The sale of new petrol and diesel vans will be banned from 2030 and petrol and diesel lorries will also be phased out progressively.

What’s the best option for those looking to buy a new car now?

The UK Government’s ban on new petrol and diesel cars doesn’t come into effect for a number of years, and hybrid models will be in car showrooms for even longer. However, consumers looking to buy a new car may want to take into consideration the 2030 ban even at this early date. 

For a start diesel cars are already being cracked down on by local authorities. They’re subject to higher taxes and surcharges. It’s possible that diesel and petrol cars may be increasingly subject to these kinds of measures as local governments try to improve the air quality and reduce pollution levels.

Another consideration is the resale of petrol and diesel cars. Car sales of these varieties have been decreasing for some time already and as we near the 2030 and 2035 deadlines we can expect the demand for petrol and diesel models to decrease even more. Therefore, it might be harder to resell a vehicle that relies on fossil fuels vs. an electric vehicle. Another consideration is that as petrol and diesel vehicles become increasingly rare, the price of repairing them will also increase. 

second hand car parked on street road

Is the UK ready for a switch to electric?

Electric vehicles are undeniably better for the environment than their petrol counterparts, and by switching to an electric vehicle you will be helping the UK to transition to net zero and prevent further levels of global warming. 

However, the UK Government still has some way to go when it comes to preparing the UK for electric vehicles. The Competition and Markets Authority estimates that the UK will need as much as ten times the current level of EV (electric vehicle) charging points by 2030 if it wants to meet net zero targets. So what is the UK Government doing to prepare? 

The UK Government has made some effort to help UK citizens transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) with its ‘plug-in grant’. Backed by £582 million worth of funding, the grant provided funding of up to 75% towards the cost of the installation of EV charge points. However, the grant ended in 2022, and the government has now turned to focus on expanding the UK’s public charge point network. 

The UK Government has fixed its attention on tackling the shortfall in terms of public EV infrastructure across the UK with £1.6 billion worth of investment that will facilitate the installation of public EV charging points. Additionally, the UK Government offers a number of incentives and discounts for people who would either like to buy an electric vehicle or already own one.

electric car on charge

Will Electric vehicles become cheaper?

Cost is widely seen as a prohibitive factor when it comes to electric vehicles. At the moment it is much cheaper to buy a petrol or electric vehicle than an EV, and with decreased demand for petrol and diesel vehicles their prices are expected to drop further. Some are concerned that this will make fossil fuel burning cars a bargain that attracts more customers. However, the cost of electric vehicles is also expected to drop over time. In fact, some experts believe that electric vehicles and petrol and diesel cars will reach a point where there’s very little price difference. 

Not only this, but petrol and diesel cars will incur other costs such as taxes and charges that aim to disincentive their use in an effort to promote the switch to EVs. Conversely, Electric vehicles are exempt from fuel duty or vehicle excise duty (also known as road tax). Not only this, EVs are exempt from the London Congestion Charge and the ULEZ fees, plus they incur lower fees for repairs and servicing, and electricity is cheaper per mile than that of petrol and diesel. Therefore, it’s likely only a matter of time before EVs become a cost effective option.

What about changing a petrol engine to electric?

While it is technically possible to swap out a petrol engine for that of an electric one, it’s incredibly expensive. The better alternative is undoubtedly to buy an electric car. Though where a car is a ‘classic model’ or collectors item it may be desirable in the long run to replace the petrol or diesel engine so that the car can run on electricity. 

Emerging technologies may also help - it’s possible that synthetic e-fuels of the future will allow petrol and diesel engines to continue to run but without the environmental repercussions.

exposed car engine

Looking forward

There’s no way around it, the UK transport sector is decarbonising and within the next ten to twenty years the majority of fossil fuel burning petrol and diesel vehicles will disappear from our roads. 

The UK Government and local authorities are working to incentivise this shift from petrol and diesel to EVs and are doing so by using taxes and charges on petrol cars, as well as grants and tax exclusions for EVs. The hard ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 however, is the most significant motivator - from this point on it will be impossible to buy a brand new car that uses petrol or diesel as fuel. However, the UK Government still has some work to do if the transition to EVs is going to be a success. As it stands the UK lacks charging points and the infrastructure required. Thankfully the UK Government has pledged funding to rectify the situation, and it’s hoped that by 2030, EVs will make up the majority of cars on the road.

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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