The government’s announcement that no new petrol or diesel cars and vans will be sold in the UK after 2040 has prompted cautious celebration among many, but many questions are still unanswered.
Motorists will be pressured to switch to electric or hybrid vehicles as part of the Government’s Air Quality Plan, to tackle rising levels of nitrogen oxide that are posing a major risk to public health and causing as many as 40,000 deaths a year.
The plan also includes urging councils to clean up the air along 81 of the most polluted roads in the UK, and insisting they retrofit buses, change road layouts, and improve features such as roundabouts and speed bumps.
While there is still more than 20 years to hammer out the finer details of the legislation, we explain how some of it may work...
What will happen to my petrol/diesel car in 2040?
Nothing, according to what has been announced so far.
The new legislation will only apply to manufacturing new cars so if you are still driving a petrol or diesel car by the deadline, you will not suddenly find yourself breaking the law.
Charges on people still driving these more polluting vehicles are not yet on the cards, though it is still possible they could be introduced as a last resort.
There may be scrap schemes introduced to encourage people to get rid of their old car.
The Government will allow councils to introduce charges or ban polluting vehicles at certain times of the day if these latest measures fail to bring down pollution.
Will there be enough electricity to serve all the new electric cars on the road?
Gareth Dunsmore, Electric Vehicle Director at Nissan Europe, told HuffPost UK: “The national grid will need to adapt, for sure, however there are technologies that will be introduced alongside electric cars that can help address increasing demand for energy.
“Add to this the increasing availability and reliability of renewable energy sources – wind and solar for example – and electricity could become an abundant commodity that we all share and distribute.
“For a start, cars can become mobile energy hubs. Vehicle-to-grid technologies are a solution here: using energy stored in EV batteries, they could become an intrinsic part of the way we consume, share, and generate energy – this will have a fundamental impact on the shift from fossil fuels to
Dr James Tate, from the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, explained that it’s not as simple as just building more power stations.
He told HuffPost UK: “The key thing that has to be developed is a more intelligent electricity grid that allows for two-way communication.
“At the moment, it’s one way. Electricity flows out from generation in power stations into the grid and gets consumed by all of our appliances. You can’t store that electricity anywhere easily.
“Let’s say you come home from work and you’ll plug your electric car in and you say: ‘Right I want it fully charged by 7am’. You then leave that car for 12 hours, 10 hours, whatever it might be and the grid, when it knows it has capacity, will then provide power to that car.
“The reason why this is important is that power stations have a maximum capacity and an efficient generation capacity and if demand is changing all the time, they’re having to move away from that efficient point and might want to switch off one power station when there isn’t enough demand.
“So if you’ve got this two way communication, it will allow the grid to operate power stations at a much more efficient way.
“The expectation is we’re going to need some more generation capacity but they key challenge is changing the grid. That’s a fundamental area that’s being looked at.”
How will I charge my electric car? Will there still be free charging points like there are now?
Tate says free charging points “will not continue, that’s very clear”. They are currently being used to encourage people to get on board with the new technology.
He explained that it’s likely that most people will charge from their homes, although parking facilities will affect this.
He said: “Obviously lots of options are being looked at but my expectation is charging at home, charging at work and graze charging where you go to the supermarket or wherever to top up.”
Dunsmore added that more recharging points will appear around the country.
He said: “Most people will charge their cars at home, but for those that can’t, there will of course be alternative options. There are already rapid chargers installed at every UK motorway service station, for example, and recharging points will appear everywhere you would normally expect to park today.
“You can charge up at home using ordinary household sockets, or at public chargers, of which there are currently 12,000 and rising in the UK. In the future, new technologies such as inductive charging could appear, allowing wireless charging.
“There are even companies researching ways to recharge cars as they drive along a motorway for example. Charging your vehicle will become a part of your everyday routine – as easy as plugging in your mobile phone is today.”
So what will happen to the petrol stations?
Tate explained they will probably simply slowly vanish.
He said: “The majority will simply decline and close with (contaminated) land put to alternative use. Those at motorway services may be used for charging but I expect these points would be located elsewhere, no need to locate in the same position as the fuel station. It makes sense not to.
“Remember, by 2045 there will still be a few diesel & petrol vehicles left, but as demand falls, fuel stations will become fewer and father between, perhaps accelerating the change.”
Will this affect other petrol or diesel vehicles?
The legislation revealed today only affects cars so things like tractors or lorries are not affected.
However, there will likely be more legislation introduced to restrict polluting vehicles such as van and lorries, which contribute to inner city air pollution.
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