The planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward to 2032 to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, MPs have said.
The UK Government has set out a target of banning conventionally fuelled cars by 2040 in order to cut pollution but the parliamentary Business Committee has branded the targets â€œvague and unambitiousâ€.
It said the Governmentâ€™s current plan lacked clarity over what vehicles will be able to be sold after 2040 and a clear target for â€œtruly zero-emissionsâ€ vehicles was needed and should be accelerated to 2032.
The committee pointed out that even within the UK, Scotland had set a target of 2032 for outlawing conventional engines. In Norway, where EV take-up has already been stronger than the UK, there is a target of 2025, while India, China, the Netherlands and Ireland want to ban combustion engines by 2030.
The committeeâ€™s chairwoman Rachel Reeves said that the Governmentâ€™s actions failed to back up its ambition of the UK being a world leader in electric vehicle ownership.
She said: â€œFor all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the Government’s deeds do not match the ambitions of their words.
â€œThe UK Government’s targets on zero-emissions vehicles are unambitious and vague, giving little clarity or incentive to industry or the consumer to invest in electric cars.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, which represents car makers branded the committeeâ€™s proposal â€œnigh-on impossibleâ€.
He said: â€œZero emission vehicles make up just 0.6 per cent of the market meaning consumer appetite would have to grow by some 17,000 per cent in just over a decade.
â€œThis is unrealistic and rejects the evidence put forward by SMMT on behalf of the industry, which is investing billions into these technologies but which recognises consumers need greater confidence and support if they are to buy these vehicles in the numbers we all want.â€
The RACâ€™s head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes added: “We understand the rationale behind wanting to bring forward the end of the sale of conventionally fuelled vehicles to 2032, but this would have to be matched with bold and decisive action from the Government that actually makes hitting the new date possible.
“There are still significant barriers that are putting drivers off alternatively fuelled vehicles – these include the upfront cost, access to charging infrastructure, and ease and time to charge a vehicle.”
Get a grip
As well as accelerating the ban, the committee urged the Government to take the lead in creating more EV charging infrastructure to encourage EV uptake.
The UK is among the top 10 countries in the world for EV sales but they still represented less than two per cent of the market in 2017 and the committee warned that anxiety over range and charging availability continue to hamper EV adoption.
Ms Reeves said: “The Government cannot simply will the ends and leave local government, or private companies, to deliver the means.
“The Government needs to get a grip and lead on co-ordinating the financial support and technical know-how necessary for local authorities to promote this infrastructure and help ensure that electric cars are an attractive option for consumers.”
The committee also criticised the recent decision to end grants on most hybrid cars as â€œperverseâ€ and called for current incentives to be maintained to encourage the move away from traditionally powered vehicles.
A Government spokesman said: “Our Road to Zero Strategy outlined our ambition for the UK to be the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle.
“As part of this, we want between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of new car sales to be ultra low emission by 2030, and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.
“And we also outlined measures to bring forward a major uplift in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, paving the way for the widespread adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles.”