The 2040 ban on the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars “may prove to be premature”, according to a UK drivers’ group.

In 2017, the government announced plans to implement a ban on the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars in 2040 in a bid to meet emissions and air quality targets. The then-Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said the government wanted “nearly every car and van” on UK roads to be zero-emission by 2050.

Since then, various groups, including MPs, have lobbied the government to move the ban forward. In January 2018, the Committee on Climate Change said the government’s strategy would not be enough to meet environmental targets, and suggested moving the ban to 2035. Then, last year, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee suggested moving the ban to 2032, as well as rewording it so hybrid vehicles were incorporated into the ban.

Peugeot 508 Hybrid and 508 SW Hybrid

Despite the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), describing the BEIS committee’s plan “unrealistic” and saying the 2040 ban is already “extremely challenging”, current Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested earlier this month that the existing 2040 date should be reviewed. Now, though, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has said electric power is not suitable for all vehicles, and development of internal combustion engines (ICEs) should continue.

In a statement, the ABD said the 2040 ban was an “arbitrary target” made “in the hope that technology we don’t yet have will be available”. The organisation, which says it represents UK road users, described the ban as “a risky strategy”, before pointing out that electric vehicles (EVs) also produce emissions, as well as having “limitations” in terms of usefulness and sustainability.

Caravanning with the Volkswagen Golf

In particular, the group pointed out issues with towing capability, with electric cars often boasting lower towing limits than their petrol- and diesel-powered equivalents. For example, the Mercedes-Benz EQC can tow a trailer weighing a maximum of 1,800 kg, but the diesel-powered GLC can tow a trailer weighing up to 2,500 kg. Similarly, the electric Jaguar I-Pace has a maximum braked trailer weight of 750 kg, while the diesel-powered F-Pace SUV manages up to 2,400 kg.

The ABD also urged rulemakers to note the emissions from the manufacture of electric vehicles, which use various natural resources in their batteries and motors, as well as emissions from brakes and tyres.

Engineers with wlectric vehicle chassis frame showing motor and battery

“Electric vehicles are not zero emissions either in use or manufacture, plus they use finite non-renewable resources such as cobalt, neodymium, lithium and copper,” said the ABD’s environment spokesperson, Paul Biggs. “The level of emissions from battery manufacture is dependent on how the country of origin generates electricity – the likes of China, Germany and Poland are heavily reliant on coal. The same is true for battery charging. The tyres and brakes of both EVs and ICE vehicles also produce particulate matter in larger quantities than in modern exhaust emissions.

"While EVs are a good or the best option for many drivers, they have obvious limitations in both usefulness and sustainability. The rush to ban petrol and diesel vehicles may yet prove to be premature.”

Windmills for electric power production in Aragon Spain