The government has announced plans to phase out new diesel heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040 as part of a move to decarbonise all forms of transport. According to the government’s “greenprint”, the aim is to prevent transport having any net impact on carbon emissions by 2050.

As part of this, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps have laid out plans to “phase out” the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040. The proposals have yet to pass through a consultation, but the DfT hopes to use a two-stage approach, banning the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered HGVs weighing up to 26 tonnes in 2035, before banning the sale of heavier petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles in 2040.

The strategy would sit alongside existing plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, before making all new cars zero-emission from 2040. That move will effectively allow hybrids to carry on for five years after sales of new conventional petrol- and diesel-powered cars have been outlawed.

HGV truck delivering concrete for New Battersea Railway Station in London

At the same time, the government has also confirmed it wants to make its own 40,000-strong vehicle fleet zero-emission by 2027 – three years earlier than planned. And the charging network could be in for an upgrade, with the government hoping to ensure “all new private electric vehicle charge points” meet smart charging “standards”, to help drivers save money on charging.

And road vehicles are not the only things in the firing line. The DfT has also expressed a desire to make aviation net carbon neutral in 2050, while still ensuring “everyone can continue to fly for holidays, visits to family and business without contributing to climate change”. Even rail travel is on the agenda, with the government planning a report to “set the direction for the rail industry on environment issues”.

“Transport is not just how you get around,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good or for bad. Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.

“It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars. The transport decarbonisation plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities as we build back greener.”

The automotive industry welcomed the plan, but it said government support would be needed to make sure the plans come to fruition.

“The automotive sector welcomes the publication of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan and associated consultations, which are necessary to create a clear and supportive framework to accelerate the transition to net zero mobility,” said Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

“The industry is already delivering with an ever-expanding range of electrified vehicles which are being bought in ever greater numbers. However, achieving net zero cannot rely solely on the automotive sector. Massive investment, not least in infrastructure, is necessary and must be delivered at an accelerated pace, for which we still await a plan and equally ambitious targets. Crucially, we must maintain a strong and competitive market that ensures the shift to electrified vehicles is affordable for all.”

Peugeot e-Rifter charging