The ban on new petrol and diesel cars is officially set to come into force in 2035, after Rishi Sunak knocked back the net zero deadline by five years.
But switching to an electric vehicle is still a change that many drivers will still never need to make. Motoring experts say that there will continue to be used petrol and diesel cars available for decades to come. Even in Norway, a country famed for its rapid takeup of electric cars, four out of five cars on the road are still petrol or diesel.
Marc Palmer, head of strategy and insights at car trading website Auto Trader, said: “I thought it was a bit disingenuous for the Prime Minister to say hard-pressed families need to change their car.”
He said that even before the date changed to 2035, the ban on sales of new fossil fuel cars was unlikely to affect the majority of drivers, who can carry on buying diesel and petrol cars on the used car market.
“The 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars doesn’t affect most people,” Mr Palmer said. “Most people really do not understand that it won’t apply. There are always going to be lots of people in petrol diesel cars after 2030. In any given year seven million people buy a used car and one million buy a new car, the others are fleet [purchased by businesses].”
Mr Palmer expects that this will remain the case, as electric cars will be slower to filter through to the used car market.
He added: “Norway is the electric car poster child but still four in five cars that are driving around are petrol or diesel and that’s what would happen here [after the ban].”
This year so far 90pc of all new car sales in the Scandinavian country were electrics, according to Norwegian Road Federation.
Stuart Masson, of automobile advice website The Car Expert, said there would be no shortage of used cars in Britain, adding that 90pc of households buy used cars not new cars.
He said: “There are no restrictions yet on how long you may use a used [petrol or diesel] car. The assumption in the industry is that 2050 will be the cut off date at which they force petrol cars off the road.”
He added: “But there’s been absolutely no guidance about what will be legislated [for petrol and diesel cars when the UK reaches the net-zero deadline in 2050].”
The British Government has set strict quotas on sales of electric cars, which are expected to hit a target of 80pc of all cars sold by 2030, and manufacturers face hefty fines of up to £15,000 per car that misses the threshold.
Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, has confirmed to the BBC that the so-called Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate, which will require 22pc of new cars sold next year to be electric, remains in place despite the ban being pushed back to 2035.
This could become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to follow. Mr Palmer warned that because the ban has been delayed, drivers could be less likely to buy a new electric car now, which would have a knock-on effect on the used car market.
He said: “What will happen is there are going to be fewer electric cars for the average car buyer on the used market… by delaying the ban now we are going to have fewer new car registrations which will lead to fewer used electric cars [in the future].”
The upshot, he said, is that faced with the choice of a brand new electric car and with only a few second-hand electric cars on the market in years to come, drivers could be more likely to go for a used petrol or diesel vehicle instead.
He added: “There’s been a bit of talk recently about Chinese manufacturers bringing in affordable [electric] cars and providing more choice for drivers to make savings. But there’s less chance of it now [because of the ban being pushed back]. This could slow down electric car sales.”
Car manufacturers have been quick to voice their disapproval in response to the Prime Minister’s U-turn. Lisa Brankin, Ford’s UK chairman, said the business needed “ambition, commitment and consistency” and that scrapping the 2030 target would undermine the industry’s confidence in the Government.%n