A Ban On Petrol And Diesel Cars

A short piece that I wrote for LinkedIn yesterday:

sign-giving-order-no-motor-vehicles

On Friday (9th December 2016), The Independent published a story that Jeremy Corbyn is considering a ban on petrol and diesel car sales as a future policy of a Labour Government, amongst other things.
Could It Actually Happen

Now obviously this is a long way from being the policy of any government but let’s just say that in 2020 a new government comes into power and this is a keystone policy of their manifesto; a ban on all new fossil fuel car sales within 10 years and let’s also assume that the legislation achieves Royal Assent within a year; so some time around May 2031 you won’t be able to buy a new car that is powered by petrol, diesel and probably LPG as well.

A big ask? Yes. Impossible? No.

It’s obviously not a simple issue but leadership from government is likely the only way it would happen. It would need a considerable amount of discussions with many groups – car makers, petroleum industry, fuel sales and local authorities to name a few – and that had better start now, otherwise there’ll be issues at the ballot box, so don’t forget the car owners either.

Infrastructure

Assuming it happens, what about infrastructure. For electric vehicles it’s going to need far more that the current minimal level of charging points, and possibly a shift towards inductive charging in many places because plugging that many vehicles in just isn’t going to be possible. Think for example of all those “on-street” vehicles that are parked each night, and not necessarily outside of their owner’s home, but if the street had an inductive charging plate underneath the tarmac and with compatible vehicles – not a problem. Although what about the underlying infrastructure – the power that is required to feed those charging points? The local grid operators will most certainly be looking to upgrade to meet demand, and spikes in demand (when everyone comes home from work and parks their car) will require some balancing. Smarter grids, and delivery of associated technological advances are also going to be needed. This isn’t just a simple policy centred in one area i.e. cars, it has massive implications for many sectors.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and gas from biodigesitble waste (as mentioned in the article) would be less of an issue to refuel and could be achieved through adaptation of existing forecourts, but would still require a massive infrastructure shift in order to generate the fuel in the first place, but diversification by current providers could provide solutions if they were willing or a massive opportunity in the market for others.

Car Sales

So what about car sales. There are currently about 90,000 electric vehicles on the road in the UK, just under 30,000 of these were sold in 2015 (these figures include hybrids and plug-in hybrids and also includes some light vans), compared to a total of 2.6 million new vehicles sold in 2015 i.e. just over 1% of new vehicles were electric. So how do you go about moving this trend totally in the other direction, and what impact is it likely to have on the second-hand car market, particularly the newly new and under three years old vehicles, particularly around 2031? Also what exactly is going to constitute a car – anything with 8 seats or less or will it include small commercial vehicles as well?

What Next

Well I could go on, but I have been and would continue to be speculating, and this piece is already long enough. This is one report in one newspaper and political scandals have been made of less. So let’s wait and see for now.

Personally if it’s true I think it is the sort of bold policy that is required in this country but it needs some proper research and discussion before anyone should actually include it in their manifesto.

The contents of this post are the views of the author alone, and do not represent those of any employer or client that the author is working for, either now or historically.

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5 Responses to A Ban On Petrol And Diesel Cars

  1. What a momentous change that would be, right? I just don’t see it in my lifetime but I’m usually wrong which, often, is a good thing.

    • Hi David, I think it’s doable, certainly in the UK, although it won’t be easy or straightforward and for a 2013 timeline actually we probably should have already started but it does need that leadership, which is probably the weakest link. We’ll see what happens next.

  2. David says:

    Very interesting. However, this sort of initiative may only be achievable in more temperate climates. I’m not confident that battery operated vehicles would have the ability to operate effectively in colder/winter climates, like we have here, in Canada. Vehicles out here need to be able to run reliably at -30 degree temperatures AND have enough power to warm the occupants for several hours at a time, as there’s lots of open country between towns and other rural areas – especially out here in Saskatchewan.

    • Hi David, I can see that this might not work everywhere, but I think it’s totally possible in the UK. If the technology keeps moving forward it may also be able to overcome some of the points you raise, and I suspect Hydrogen fuel cells may be the more viable option in lower temperatures. It’s the lead in time and leadership that will be needed to make it happen though.

      • David says:

        Where it can work effectively and safely for people, then I’m all for it. But, people/leaders need to understand that one solution isn’t always an answer for everyone.

        Just because of the distances I’m used to traveling, and how sparsely populations are distributed out here, I always like to carry extra/emergency fuel with me – especially during winter. Out here, gas stations close for the evenings and many of them still close down on Sundays. So, when these alternate fuel vehicles are designed, in order for global acceptance, things like how to safely refuel vehicles without access to a service station will have to be addressed.

        If I can’t carry extra fuel with me, in case of an emergency, then it’s not a vehicle I’m willing to trust with my life. We’ve already started to prepare to go back to a donkey and cart mode of transportation, out here on the homestead. ;o)

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