January figures for new car sales came out this past Tuesday and surprise, surprise, they’ve dropped year on year (149k vehicles sold in Jan this year, versus 160k in Jan 2019). Why isn’t this a surprise? For starters, consumer confidence here in the UK has trickled steadily lower as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the ramifications of a Britain not part of the EU made consumers wary of making any significant purchase. Further, the government has done a poor job of communicating its plan for continued EV subsidies and/or grants. In fact, one can go a step further and say that the current subsidies that are in place (£3500 grant for a new EV) aren’t nearly enough of an incentive for those people sitting on the fence as to whether their next car should indeed be an EV. The hidden irony is that at any moment, the government could revoke the grant altogether (they’ve already lowered it once, and took away all grants for plug-in hybrids). Add in the woeful charging infrastructure – both the pace of rollout and the messiness of charging options and suppliers (I’m looking at you, Ecotricity) – and there is not so much confusion amongst consumers as there is a general lack of enthusiasm. Lastly, being told to purchase diesels doesn’t seem like that long ago – let’s face it, that was a disaster – and consumers haven’t forgotten. But does this mean you should hold off on purchasing a new car? Not at all…
Despite the recent announcement from Boris Johnson that all sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles would be banned from 2035, one mustn’t forget that that is… 15 years away. The outrage amongst the UK motoring bodies highlighting the deficiencies of such a plan means there is the distinct possibility that the ban won’t come to fruition. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t welcome steps towards lessening our carbon footprint but realism at some point will have to come into play. That said, I envision modifications to the ban that will simply discourage people from buying high C02 emitting vehicles through heavier taxes (for example). Diesels, and petrols to a lesser extent, will still have a place on our roads 15 years from now for certain applications, such as long-haul goods transportation. This much I am sure. Should they be banned from dense urban areas? Yes, I believe diesels should be, so long as it’s not to the detriment of city centre businesses.
But what of the petrol and diesel vehicles that will still be for sale on the forecourts of dealerships up and down the country? If the ban does come into force, one might think that there will be a fire sale on all existing stock. But will there be?? Perhaps 2034 might see an increase in prices as consumers scramble to purchase the last available internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
So, if you’re sitting on the fence and not on-board the EV train just yet, fear not. An economical, low C02 emitting, petrol vehicle is still an exciting proposition and will most certainly have a place on our roads for years to come.