More than half of all new cars sold in the UK must be fully electric by 2028, under detailed government proposals unveiled on Thursday to pave the way for phasing out the sale of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles by the end of the decade.
Ministers want to bring in a China-style sales mandate from 2024, which would force carmakers to increase the proportion of electric cars as a percentage of their sales each year until 2035, when all models must be zero emission.
Under plans unveiled two years ago, the government would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 but allow some new hybrid models to be sold until 2035.
Specific year-by-year goals disclosed online on Thursday include a 22 per cent mandated all-electric share by manufacturer at the start of the scheme in 2024, rising every year to 52 per cent in 2028 and 80 per cent by 2030.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders industry body said the new rules “must encourage consumers to purchase not just compel manufacturers to produce.” It renewed its call for manufacturers to be released from the binding targets if not enough electric chargers were installed across the UK.
Last month the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that 59 per cent of new car sales would be electric by 2027, double the level it forecast in October.
Battery-electric cars accounted for 12 per cent of the new vehicles sold last year but some manufacturers, such as Toyota, currently rely on hybrid systems to lower emissions and have only this year begun selling full electric vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s largest carmaker, only sells one electric model and is not due to release its next electric car until 2024.
But carmakers were critical of the detailed policy proposal for avoiding clarifying the future of hybrid cars, which are built at two of the UK’s largest auto plants, owned by Nissan and Toyota.
Ministers had previously said only new cars with “significant zero emission capability” would escape the 2030 sales ban, while signalling that sales of vehicles that switch between engine and battery-use while running, known as “full hybrids”, could still be allowed.
The policy proposal document, published after a consultation with the industry, said it could not “precisely set out that definition” until ministers had electric vehicle sales targets.
The delay leaves carmakers that sell such hybrids — which also include Honda, Hyundai and Renault — unsure if the models using the technology would still be permitted in British showrooms from the end of the decade.
Carmakers need several years to change production plans, particularly if it involves changes to existing car plants. Toyota has previously warned it would stop investing in its UK factory, where more than 80 per cent of production is hybrid, if its technology was banned from sale.
Honda said: “We are disappointed that government has postponed setting a definition of which hybrids can be sold after 2030.”
Other proposed policy changes would stop carmakers from pooling their CO2 emission scores, as they do at present, to bring them into compliance with existing targets.
It would be replaced by a similar scheme that would allow manufacturers that exceed their zero emission sales target to sell “credits” to other carmakers with model line-ups that fail to meet the goals.
This would allow smaller groups, such as Ferrari or Aston Martin, to comply in the early years of the scheme before they have released fully electric models.