keir starmer

With Labour’s big election win came its promise of bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to its original 2030 date – however, ‘unachievable’ seems to be the industry’s overwhelming response to that goal.

Steve Rodell, managing director for leisure and retail at Christie, said as much: “In my opinion it’s simply unachievable and Labour could end up with egg on their face. Vauxhall (manufacture in Luton & Ellesmere Port) said publicly the 2035 ban was already impossible to meet.

“The EV market share was just 16% in the first five months of 2024. Demand is not there. The majority of drivers don’t want them. A What Car poll result said 44% of respondents don’t want them, 22% said they do. This is likely to be significantly down to the cost of purchasing and fuelling (either at home or on the move).

“Labour claim they will help second-hand buyers install chargepoints – but there are no details. Even if they do this the grid cannot cope with supplying power for a significant shift to EVs.”

Rodell went on to say: The forecourt sector is already seeing significant investment in alternative revenue streams such as foodservice and valeting. It is well placed for the energy transition. So until the detail of Labours policies are published or laws imposed, it is difficult to comment further.”

Oli Lodge, MD of Rusdene Services, was of a similar opinion to Rodell: “I think most operators in the industry believe that 2030 is completely unachievable and I know there are many, including ourselves, who also question whether electrification is actually the answer. Planning as well as grid capacity is slowing down the process to get chargers in the ground, but with electric car sales having plateaued, there are still many questions to answer. Of course, you’d like to think that if Labour are bringing the date back to 2030 they will have a fully funded and costed plan that makes driving, refuelling and charging, affordable and accessible for all….let’s watch this space.”

Meanwhile, Goran Raven, who owns Raven’s Budgens Abridge in Essex, told Forecourt Trader that he was nervously awaiting the outcome with bated breath. “Whether the ban is brought forward all depends on what they prioritise,” he said.

Jennifer Zokiuddin, director of Top 50 Indie Refuel Forecourts, said it would be interesting to see if Labour actually moves the ban: “Personally I don’t feel this deadline is achievable in five-and-a-half years. An alternative fuel would need to be available nationwide which could be a costly investment for PFS. Are Labour going to support this?

“Diesel and petrol cars have a long life and with the cost-of-living crisis they are affordable options for low earning families as second hand cars, electric cars are not affordable options for most families at the moment. If the ban comes into place the value of second hand cars, services and parts could sky rocket leaving a number of people not able to afford any vehicle.”

On the subject of Labour’s plans for wealth creation by encouraging investment, Rodell said: “This is ultimately likely to be achieved by leaning on the private sector as there is no significant public money. This is likely to be delivered by tax breaks for business which could be helpful if you intend investing in your property, workforce or technology.”

And on windfall taxes on “Big Energy” (including oil companies), Rodell said they would likely be an own goal: “They may even face legal challenges as oil companies are trying to transition from fossil fuels. How does Labour expect the very significant switch to be funded? The most likely route is to use profits from existing operations. Labour have such a large emphasis on green energy, their own policy might trip them up.”