The government has revealed plans to bring forward the ban on selling internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle five years to 2035.

Further restrictions on petrol and diesel cars could be implemented sooner if there is a possibility for a faster transition, the government said. Hybrids with an engine and a battery will also be subject to a ban, subject to consultation.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “This government’s £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working. Last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes.

“We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.”

A consultation into the earlier ban is expected to take place in the coming months.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said it’s extremely concerning that the government has moved the goalposts on the issue. “Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020. However, 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.

“This is about market transformation, yet we still don’t have clarity on the future of the plug-in car grant – the most significant driver of EV uptake – which ends in just 60 days’ time, while the UK’s charging network is still woefully inadequate.

“We therefore need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”

Alex Buttle, director of Motorway.co.uk, added: “Although the green argument is a powerful one, and many of us would happily drive less polluting cars, too many people who rely on their vehicles every day are concerned about the number of available public and private electric charging points.

“When we polled UK drivers recently about switching to electric, an inadequate charging infrastructure was the most common reason cited by respondents as to why they wouldn’t consider switching to an electric car over the next five years. At least now Brexit has taken a back seat, for the time being, the government can refocus its attention on getting its ambitious ‘Road to Zero’ strategy back on track.”

Ben Stanfield, partner at Gowling WLG, added: “Whilst the change to 2035 is not wholly unexpected, it cannot keep changing so that the Government can gain a positive headline. The Environment Bill, which has just restarted its passage through Parliament contains powers enabling the recall of motor vehicles for emissions and environmental performance – as well as new powers in relation to air quality in urban areas.

“It would help all industry sectors, not just the automotive sector, if a roadmap was published by Government (as the European Commission has done) which sets out what the Government intends to do and by when.”

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