Not yet a U-turn, but UK pulls handbrake on decision to ban ICE cars by 2030, delays EV transition
Hans · Sep 21, 2023 12:30 PM
UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced yesterday that it will be pulling back from an earlier decision to ban sales of new combustion engine cars by 2030, pushing the deadline back by five years, to 2035.
The reason? He needs to keep British voters, many of whom are struggling with, ironically, high electricity cost, happy.
The decision to ban combustion engine cars, while criticized by EV lobbyists and - contrary to popular opinion, also by many car companies betting on EVs - has not gone down well with the British public.
Like many countries, British households are struggling with high cost of living, especially electricity and heating gas prices. Voters are also pushing back against government legislations forcing them to buy more expensive electric vehicles.
"It should be you the consumer that makes that choice, not government forcing you to do it," he added,” said Sunak yesterday.
Despite the decision to delay the ban, Sunak said the UK remains committed to achieving net zero carbon neutrality by 2050, but he stressed that the only realistic path to net zero is one that is honest and pragmatic.
He also described the current high energy prices that British households are paying, which is higher than many other countries in the European Union, as an “unacceptable cost.”
He also highlighted that the UK is in danger of relying too much on what he describes as "heavily subsidized, carbon intensive imports from China," referring to cheap Chinese EVs manufactured with coal-intensive electricity.
The decision to ban combustion engine cars by 2030 was made by the previous Boris Johnson government, which Sunak criticized as a policy that pushed for 100 percent EVs too quickly without securing enough public support.
"If we continue down this path, we risk losing the British people and the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies, but against the wider mission itself," said Sunak.
The decision to delay the transition to 100 percent EV-only new passenger cars by 2030 also upset many car companies, especially those who have bet on the 100 percent EV-only future.
"Today's announcement ... alters complex supply chain negotiations and product planning, whilst potentially contributing to consumer and industry confusion," a Kia spokesperson told Reuters.
"We urgently need a clear and reliable regulatory framework which creates market certainty and consumer confidence, including binding targets for infrastructure rollout and incentives to ensure the direction of travel," a Volkswagen UK spokesperson said.
"Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three," said Ford UK.
However, to Toyota - the common target of criticism by EV lobbyists for its refusing to back a 100 percent EV-only future – the events are unfolding exactly as it has predicted years ago.
The always pragmatic and customer-first Toyota has always maintained it is the customer, not car manufacturers or governments, who will decide how the future of cars will look like.
Toyota insists that as a global car manufacturer that serves people from all continents, it must have a wide range of vehicles to meet a very diverse range of needs. As such it cannot and will not force its customers to accept only one battery EV-only solution.
Instead, Toyota believes in a multi-pathway strategy – BEVs, hybrids, hydrogen engines, hydrogen FCEVs, even non-car pod-type or bus-like vehicles for last-mile / first-mile solutions to support public transport – to achieve carbon neutrality.
Toyota wants to offer a menu of options, and it is up to the customer to select which is best for them, even if this multi-options method means that Toyota will run slower in the BEV space.
Toyota UK welcomed the decision by Sunak, saying that as it helps the industry and consumers adapt and that it "recognises that all low emission and affordable technologies can have a role to play in a pragmatic vehicle transition."