Britain to start taking gas, diesel vehicles off roads in 2040

The French government and Swedish automaker Volvo made similar announcements earlier this month that they would move away from conventional vehicles as well.
By Ed Adamczyk and Daniel Graeber   |   Updated July 26, 2017 at 10:36 AM
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July 26 (UPI) -- For environmental reasons, Britain will ban all new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 23 years, a government report says.

The plan, expected Wednesday, aims to start removing gasoline and diesel engines in 2040. It follows a similar declaration in France and comes after the British government was ordered by courts to develop new plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Judges ruled that prior clean-air plans were inadequate to meet European Union pollution limits in coming years.

Britain's government has said the poor air quality has an unnecessary and avoidable negative impact on citizens' health, and costs up to $3.5 billion in annual lost productivity.

Part of the new plan involves an offer of $260 million to local governments to change rules where vehicle emissions surpass EU thresholds. Ideas so far include changing road layouts, reprogramming traffic lights and imposing charges on the oldest and most polluting cars on the road.

The plan also includes $1.3 billion for government purchase of ultra-low emissions vehicles, nearly $130 million to improve infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations and $378 million for retrofitting existing vehicles.

Climate change is also a reason for the plan to get gas vehicles off the road.

"We can't carry on with diesel and petrol cars," Environment Secretary Michael Gove said. "It's important we all gear up for a significant change which deals not just with the problems to health caused by emissions, but the broader problems caused in terms of accelerating climate change."

Gove added that some of the onus rested on local communities to come up with ways to limit emissions, including possible prohibitions on commuters and the addition of cleaner mass transit options. Local leaders are called on to draw up "appropriate plans" to deal with climate challenges related to emissions, he said.

Energy consultant group Wood Mackenzie said that it estimated about 10 percent of the passenger vehicles on British roads will be electric by 2035, leaving more than 30 million conventional vehicles still in service.

Apart from what he said are the "massive" investments required to build new infrastructure, Alan Gelder, the group's senior vice president for refinery and chemicals research, said the strain on the grid would be significant.

"If, in 2035, 5 percent of the EV fleet were to charge at the same time, the load on the grid could soar by up to 40 gigawatts," he said in an emailed statement.

Though the measure could lead to dramatic cuts in fuel consumption, the measure does little to address the oil demand from airlines and commercial vehicles, he added.

French Environmental Minister Nicolas Hulot said in early July the country would end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 and become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of its efforts to address the goals in the international Paris climate agreement.

Swedish automaker Volvo around the same time said it was marking an end to the era where its consumer fleet has vehicles powered only by the internal combustion engine. All vehicles launched from 2019 will have an electric motor.

In June, parties to an effort steered in part by the International Energy Agency set a goal of 30 percent new electrical vehicle sales by 2030.

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