Forecourt and oil industry representatives have slammed an announcement by the Government that it may bring forward the end of sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035, or even earlier.

The sector has been working towards a target date of 2040 since it was first set in 2010, and then reiterated when the Government unveiled its clean air strategy in July 2017, but the proposed change was outlined by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his speech to launch the UN climate conference COP26.

He said the Government plans to bring forward an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition is feasible, subject to consultation. The ban would also include hybrid vehicles, which had previously been excluded.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “This government’s £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working – last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes.

“We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.”

However, PRA chairman Brian Madderson warned that the Government had no basis for achieving such an ambitious target, and that focusing so heavily on EVs could mean better long-term solutions were overlooked.

He said achieving the new target would not be possible without significant investment into petrol forecourts to provide retrofitted charging infrastructure, which the Government has yet to address. He added that the policy change was largely uncosted, and over reliant on driveway charging points which many drivers will not be able to access.

He warned the Government was again ignoring the potential for hydrogen powered vehicles, which can be refuelled quicker than battery electric vehicles (BEV), have assured longer mileage range and can be more easily catered for within existing infrastructure at petrol filling stations. He urged the Government to be technology neutral to avoid leading consumers down the wrong track, in the way it did with diesel vehicles.

Madderson said: “Many of our members have already embraced low carbon systems, re-engineering their businesses toward roadside retail with improved car valeting and larger convenience and food-to-go facilities that cater for the slower refilling of electric cars. However, there are significant financial and technical hurdles that will need to be overcome to integrate electric vehicle charging into many of their forecourts.

“Until the issue of credible charging infrastructure is addressed this will impede the mass take-up of electric vehicles.”

Stephen Marcos Jones, director-general of UKPIA, agreed with the need for a technology-neutral approach to cutting CO2 emissions. He said: “The UK Government risks the progress we have made in reducing our emissions by picking winners, instead of allowing for consumer choice and technological development – including low-carbon liquid fuels in internal combustion engine (ICE) and hybrid vehicles – to lead the way in decarbonising our society.  

“Electric vehicles will have an increasingly important role to play in the future of our transport system. However, if we are to meet the target of Net Zero emissions by 2050 we need to focus on the ends and not the means. That must include recognising that ICE and hybrid vehicles are part of the long-term solution to decarbonisation, playing a fundamental role in lowering emissions now, through enhanced vehicle efficiency and the use of low carbon liquid fuels. 

“The downstream oil sector will continue to play a major role in the UK’s energy transition. We will work with the UK government to ensure that this vital area of public policy is driven by rigorous, evidence-based outcomes to help secure practicable, low-carbon liquid fuel solutions to the country’s future transport and energy needs.”