Will new Net Zero plans help car buyers?

The Government has recently launched another round of measures to help transition the UK towards Net Zero. We look at what impact these will have on car buyers.

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What is ‘Net Zero’ and what are the overall plans for moving to it?

Net Zero is a term that was popularised at a United Nations event in Paris 2021. It was here a global climate agreement was put in place between countries. It refers to the desired point at which carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, and the amount we add to the atmosphere is the same as the amount we remove.

Governments and scientists agree that if the world continues on its current path of increasing carbon dioxide emissions this will lead us to the ‘point of no return’. Warming the planet to the point where catastrophic consequences for all life would be irreversible.

UK power station chimneys emitting greenhouse gases

UK transport Net Zero targets

The Government has set a target of us achieving Net Zero in the UK by 2050. It launched a Net Zero strategy in 2021 which combines various initiatives and targets across a range of industries and sectors.

The following vehicle related commitments under the strategy are:

The sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will end by 2030

Only new hybrid, battery electric and alternative zero emitting fuel powered vehicles (e.g. hydrogen) can be sold from 2030. But used petrol and diesel vehicle sales can continue.

From 2035, all new cars and vans must be zero emission at the tailpipe

New hybrid electric vehicles can no longer be sold.

To end the sale of all new, non-zero emission road vehicles by 2040

This really will cover all new vehicles from motorcycles to buses and HGVs.

There is currently no commitment for banning the sale of used petrol or diesel vehicles. But by 2050 some sort of intervention will need to take place. The vehicles will need to either be completely taken off the road or converted to become zero emission at the tailpipe. Or the carbon they emit will need to be captured (prevented from entering the atmosphere) or offset (example: trees planted to absorb the carbon dioxide).

What measures has the Government just announced?

To ‘support’ the Net Zero strategy Government has just launched a transport decarbonisation package. These are what are known as ‘supply measures’, aimed at helping councils and incentivising industry to facilitate the use of, and produce EVs. The main measures:

  • New Zero Emissions mandate will be introduced in 2024 that will obligate manufacturers to ensure that a rising percentage of their cars and vans sold in the UK are electric up until 2029.
Black door of 10 Downing Street

Why has the Government launched these measures?

Councils are key to EV charge points in public spaces

There are over 40,000 electric charge points in the UK as of March 2023. This number has increased by 35% since March 2022. But it is widely agreed that more are needed across a broader range of areas as EV numbers grow. Local councils are key to achieving this in public spaces. Such as in towns and village buildings, car parks and along residential streets.

Brexit requires UK to implement its own zero emissions mandate

In 2020 the EU launched carbon emission standards for registered cars and vans that manufacturers must meet across member states, or they face penalties.

The new zero emissions mandate implements a UK version of the EU scheme following Brexit. UK Government has purposely looked to stretch these targets further than the EU. It wants manufacturers to introduce a higher proportion of EVs sooner in the UK, compared to EU member states.

There are obvious health benefits to doing so given the improvements to air quality that less polluting cars and vans will bring. But also Government is outwardly promoting the UK as a ‘Net Zero leader’ and wants UK industry to gain a competitive advantage in downstream Net Zero related technology and production. This includes batteries, alternative fuels and components.

How will car buyers be affected?

The plans are good news for EV car buyers and give targets and direction to manufacturers. At this stage they will make little difference to those still in the market for a petrol or diesel vehicle.

If the councils can access LEVI funding then it will allow them to improve local charge point infrastructure. Especially helpful for drivers that cannot charge an EV at home. The criticism from motoring organisations is that the funding may not be enough to make the transition to EV usership as smooth as it should be.

The ZEV mandate does go further and faster than the equivalent EU scheme. This gives manufacturers tangible targets to adhere to. It should lead to higher levels of EV supply over the coming years and make EVs cheaper for car buyers. Lower EV prices is a trend already in play, with us already seeing discounts in the price of EVs so far in 2023.

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