Prime Minister Boris Johnson shocked vehicle manufacturers when he announced, at the launch event for a United Nations climate summit to be held in November, that a proposed ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK will be brought forward from 2040 to 2035.

Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), described the new target as very ambitious for the van market and warned the Government that it would have to take urgent action to solve the challenges around power supply and the availability of electric vehicles.

Operators want to switch to electric, he made clear, but the depots and homes where vans are currently stationed do not have sufficient power supply to charge the vehicles.

“FTA is calling on the Government to share its strategy on how it plans to power the UK’s fleet of millions of vans,” Mr Snelling concluded. “Until the issue of power supply is resolved, it is very unlikely — in the view of FTA — that 100% of new vans bought after 2035 will be electrically powered.”

The Government is expected to conduct a consultation on moving the ban and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has noted the significance of the decision, for the first time, to include hybrids.

While this will provide a major boost for developers of pure electric cars, the RHA noted, it will potentially create a backlash from some manufacturers and users.

The Association’s chief executive, Richard Burnett, agreed that everyone wants to tackle climate change but highlighted that the changeover will be much more difficult for vans than for cars, because payloads and duty cycles are much more demanding.

“The changeover process for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is different again,” he went on. “Research into alternative fuels is already widespread. However, because of the nature of the road freight industry and the distances covered, there is still a very long way to go before an efficient, cost-effective alternative to diesel-powered trucks can be found.”

Vehicles are an expensive investment, the RHA has pointed out. If companies are to invest in cleaner vehicles, then the Government must reassure buyers that they will be able to use them for a reasonable lifespan — at least 12 years for lorries.

Last reviewed 7 February 2020