A major automotive industry body in the UK has criticised British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that his government will ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in the United Kingdom from 2035.
Johnson's plan, revealed at the launch of an upcoming United Nations climate summit, means the ban will be implemented a full five years earlier than the original deadline of 2040.
Johnson brought the timing forward after climate experts suggested a 2040 ban would be too late if the UK wanted to meet its target of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The prime minister added that, ideally, the ban would be introduced even earlier than 2035.
The inclusion of hybrid vehicles in the ban is also an update on the original plans – which were first introduced in July 2017 – and will mean consumers can only purchase new electric or hydrogen vehicles.
But UK automotive trade association, the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), criticised the updated timing of the ban, saying more needed to be done to protect the industry.
“We need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs,” SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.
"If the UK is to lead the global zero emissions agenda, we need a competitive marketplace and a competitive business environment to encourage manufacturers to sell and build here.
“A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.”
While electric vehicle sales in the UK grew year-on-year in January 2020 (up 2720 units on January 2019 to represent 2.7 per cent of the market), overall vehicle sales in the country fell by over 7 per cent.
"Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by the government’s decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts on the end of sale of internal combustion engine cars,” Hawes said.
“While ambition is understandable, as we must address climate change and air quality concerns, blanket bans do not help short-term consumer confidence.”
News of the ban had an immediate effect on consumer interest in electric cars, with UK automotive online marketplace Auto Trader telling the Financial Times searches for EVs increased 162 per cent above average levels following Johnson's announcement.
The news follows Johnson's claims late last year a Conservative government would invest £500 million into the UK's fast-charging network, ensuring every household would be within 30 miles (48 kilometres) of a charging point in the future.
“As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions," Johnson said this week.
“There can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a global Britain is prouder to serve."
Still, the prime minister's plans regarding the new timing of the ban, plus the inclusion of hybrid vehicles in said ban, are subject to consultation.
Of course, the UK isn't the only country to consider bold plans to reduce carbon emissions.
France hopes to ban combustion-engine car sales by 2040, Norway's goal is to stop conventional car sales by 2025 and cities like Paris, Athens, Madrid and Mexico City are aiming to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.
Last week, Milan banned all petrol and diesel vehicles from driving in the city for an entire day in an effort to combat rising smog problems.
Here in Australia, combustion-engine vehicle sales dropped by 7.8 per cent in 2019, while sales of electric vehicles were up 203 per cent year on year, though they still only represent 0.6 per cent of overall sales.
MORE: Electric vehicle news