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Don’t panic!

Oct 06, 2017
Hybrid vehicles still okay after 2040!

The announcement in July by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, that the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans would be outlawed in 2040 will have come as no surprise to most, given the recent reports in the press about vehicle emissions and the success of Client Earth in the High-Court. But before you go dashing out to buy the latest electric van or car, read the first paragraph of the DEFRA press release carefully. 

The Government confirmed today that it will end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, as it unveiled new plans to tackle air pollution. 

The key word here is conventional. The Mover called the DEFRA press office to clarify exactly what they meant by ‘conventional’ and after a little hesitation were told by their resident expert that it meant a van or car powered solely by a diesel or petrol engine. “So, what about hybrids then?” we asked. “No, they won’t be affected,” said the DEFRA press officer.  

Well, that was a surprise. All the news reports we’d seen gave the distinct impression that by 2040 we would all be driving around in little electric cars and vans, searching for a charging point and hoping we had enough ‘lecky’ in the tank to get us home. Not so, apparently.  

We also asked the press officer what was meant by ‘van’ in this context; was is just car-type vans, or will larger vans such as Transits and Vivaros be included? After a moment’s silence, we were put on hold while the officer made enquiries. After a couple of minutes, he came back. “We do mean small car-type vans; but larger vans could be included as well,” he said.  It looks like nobody really knows. 

In fairness to Mr. Gove and the DEFRA press office, 2040 is a long way off, but if manufacturers are going to be ready for the changeover they will have to start producing electric or hybrid vans in large numbers within the next few years, so more details will need to be available soon.  

The government’s long-term aim is of course for all vehicles, large and small, to produce zero emissions, but for that to happen there will have to be a major breakthrough in battery technology to give the range and in the case of commercial vehicles, the payload to be viable. Fast recharging is also a major problem that the boffins will need to solve. At the moment - according to the Nissan website - using the fastest rapid charging stations currently available on motorway forecourts, it takes about 30 minutes to charge a 24kWh Nissan Leaf to 80% capacity. That will give you at best about 100 miles range, assuming you drive steadily, don’t carry a passenger, and don’t use the aircon or heater. Not great; and imagine the queues and tempers on the forecourts if we all had one! 

There is no doubt that electric vehicles are the future, but how long it will be before the technology is available to make them a credible alternative to the dominance of the internal combustion engine is anyone’s guess.  

In the meantime, those of us still standing in 2040 will be able to avoid range-anxiety, and fisty cuffs at the charging stations, by investing in a hybrid: at least for a while. 

The first electric cars

Electric cars are not a new invention. The first production electric car was built in London by Thomas Parker in 1884 using his own design of high-capacity rechargeable batteries, and by 1897 electric taxis were an everyday sight on the streets of London. The trouble then, as now, was their limited speed and range. At present, despite the green revolution and low running costs of electric cars, fewer than 2% of cars sold in the UK are solely electric.   In 2016 the UK government collected £27.6 billion + VAT in fuel duty 



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