Electric! Thoughts on UK Phase-Out of Petrol & Diesel Vehicles by 2030

No new gas or diesel vehicles to be sold in the UK by 2030. While the new mandate only applies to the sale of new cars and not the ownership or sale of used or older vehicles, this move does start a larger transition that will have far-reaching effects on the automotive trade and hobby as a whole.

As should come as no surprise, the Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) of England is welcoming the UK Government’s decision to bring forward the phasing out of the sale of new petrol (gasoline) and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – ten years earlier than planned – as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Morgan EV Electric

This decision supports ‘big picture’ issues such as the UK’s ambition to have net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 to combat climate change, and the urgent need to improve local air quality.

While this ruling impacts only new vehicle sales, not used vehicles, Hagerty, the company best know for supplying insurance to the classic car market has conducted some interviews with small new car makers in Britain. These companies, such as Caterham and Morgan, could be hit particularly hard by the need to change their products.

According to the interview conducted by Hagerty, Graham MacDonald, CEO of Caterham, is the first to point out the problem of the weight of current batteries but then cost quickly follows as an issue.

Graham MacDonald of Caterham

The whole ethos of the Seven is to add lightness, and the battery packs add somewhere in the region of 300kg which would kill the handling characteristics of the Seven

We know the advantages of electric powertrains, but it just doesn’t work. We don’t have the skill or budget to develop our own electric powertrain and while electric powertrains doesn’t fit the ethos of Caterham now, I have no doubt that it will do in the future.

Graham MacDonald, CEO of Caterham

Others are taking a more proactive move towards electrification, including Ariel. Simon Saunders, founder of the reborn Ariel brand, has already shown great interest in electric vehicles and is aware that it would be dangerous to do nothing.

We are involved in several multi-million-pound projects working on EVs, battery packs and control systems” explains Saunders. “Many of the jumps in technology come from small technology companies like us, who can adopt this technology quickly and in low numbers, start a supply chain and introduce cutting-edge technology to the market.” Ultimately, says Saunders, “those who can’t move with requirements and legislation will die.

Steve Morris of Morgan

Morgan is taking a less drastic approach to its evolution, despite having already shown the fantastically steampunk electric Three-Wheeler EV3. The company that was once famed for refusing to change the way things were done is now focused on an electric future.

Models like the EV3, which is not yet planned for production have proven that there is genuine demand for an electric Morgan. The EV technology within the marketplace is evolving at such a speed, we are assessing a number of drivetrain solutions and opportunities.

Steve Morris, chairman and CEO of Morgan

There are other factors to consider, too. Understandably, whether in private or in the open, many of these manufacturers hope that the government can be persuaded to extend the deadline or even provide an exclusion to niche carmakers.

MacDonald says Caterham is particularly hopeful about continuing with a traditional petrol-powered offering, if legislators will allow. “If we can canvass the government and say ‘look, the reality is that the cars are noisy and arguably dirty, but they get driven under 2000 miles per year – can there be an exception for low volume cars?

Some suspect the move to electrification in the mainstream could see car enthusiasts buying more specialist models. After all, if everyday cars become more uniform, finding an outlet for motoring fun is potentially far more likely to come from a low mileage ‘hobby’ car.

Arguably more problematic than the powertrain technology is the charging infrastructure needed to support cars. Take the challenging environment of a motor racing circuit. Can the largest venues, never mind the sort of grass-roots locations often used for track days in the UK, afford the infrastructure needed for routine super-rapid charging of multiple vehicles?

However, beyond the issues of weight and cost, all agree that the benefits of electric propulsion are clear and considerable. As Ariel’s Simon Saunders puts it, “It’s not just a case of taking out the ICE and fitting a motor. Electrification can open up a whole new kind of performance.

Other entities, such as the BVRLA, are taking a more balanced and cautious approach. The BVRL is government lend support for this initiative in three primary ways. First, tax incentives and grants; second, efforts must be taken to insure that the UK remains an attractive market for manufacturers to sell their cars; and third, the required infrastructure to support the initiative needs to be put in place such as charging stations.

MINI USA LAUNCHES ORDERING SITE FOR ALL-NEW BATTERY ELECTRIC MINI COOPER SE 1

Again, as mentioned, the new ruling only applies to the sale of new cars and not the ownership or sale of used or older vehicles, this move does spark a larger transition that will have far reaching effects on the automotive trade, collector car market, home and small repair shop, and hobby as a whole.

You can read the full Hagerty feature on their UK website.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British
Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car enthusiast, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 and a 1977 MGB. But there is always room for more - no matter what his wife says.

2 Comments

  1. Ah good! Another unrealistic governmental target. The question that no one asks is “Where is all the electricity coming from?” The answer is that it is not, because the UK already has an electricity supply problem with old nuclear plants being decommissioned before the new ones come on-line. The country barely has sufficient generating supply to meet current peaks demand and switching vehicles from petroleum power to electric cannot be met from the generating capacity that will be available in 2030. I don’t imagine that importing electricity from France will be sufficient and even if it is, the price will punitive.

  2. I am repeatedly surprised that commentaries such as this one appear to meekly accept the premise that elimination of the ICE is necessary to combat climate change, this based on the IPCC hypothesis that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions– from burning of fossil fuels — are the most significant cause of global warming/climate change. That premise has been very effectively promulgated to the point where mainstream media accept it as “settled science”, no longer practising the hallmarks of good journalism: skepticism and questioning of conventional wisdom. Indeed media is only too ready to ignore, shout-down, even insult (“deniers”, “flat-earthers”, etc) those scientists who refute the IPCC stance, climate scientists and others in related disciplines such as Tim Ball, Judith Curry, Rupert Darwall, Richard Lindzen, Bjorn Lomborg, Ross McKitrick, Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace), Roger Pielke, Ian Plimer and Willi Soon. You won’t find them mentioned too often in the popular press — go to You Tube to hear their voices. Climate change is real, but why is there no strong push-back — and that means informed and pointed discussions with politicians — against the ideologically-driven vilification of fossil-fuel use, particularly in ICE automobiles where pollution controls are, today, very effective.

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