Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars from 2040 as part of a plan to get them off the roads altogether 10 years later, environment minister Michael Gove said on Wednesday.
It follows a similar announcement earlier this month by the French government, while German cities including Stuttgart and Munich have also said they are considering banning some diesel vehicles.
The British government has been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups, and in May set out proposals for a scrap scheme to get rid of the most polluting vehicles.
Ahead of a June election, the governing Conservatives pledged to make “almost every vehicle” zero-emission by 2050. The step will likely accelerate the decline of diesel cars in Europe’s second biggest market, where they are blamed for poor air quality. The Volkswagen emissions test cheating scandal has also added to concerns about diesel.
Earlier this month, Volvo became the first major automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine by saying all its car models launched after 2019 will be either electric or hybrids.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said:
Consumers should be given incentives to buy alternate fuel vehicles, currently demand for such cars is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concerns over affordability, range and charging points. We could undermine UK’s successful automotive sector if we don’t allow enough time for the industry to adjust.
Demand for diesel cars fell 10% in the first half of the year in Britain whilst sales of petrol vehicles rose 5%, according to industry data. Sales of electric and hybrid models have risen by nearly 30% in the same period, the fastest growing section of the market, but it still accounts for less than 5% of new car registrations.