LONDON — The UK auto industry reacted cautiously to the British government’s plan to force automakers to sell a rising share of full-electric or fuel cell cars as part of its new “net zero” strategy.
Starting in 2024 automakers selling in the UK will be required to sell increasing percentages of zero-emission vehicles every year as the country moves to banning the sale of new, non-hybrid gasoline and diesel cars and vans in 2030.
The government announced the plan on Tuesday as part of its strategy to create a net zero economy.
It did not give details of the percentages of zero emissions sales automaker will have to meet. Details will be published early next year.
Stellantis’ UK-based brand Vauxhall welcomed the announcement.
The plan “will provide clarity to the UK motor industry and the rest of the electric vehicle ecosystem,” Vauxhall Managing Director Paul Willcox said.
“We look forward to working with the government on the detail of how a ZEV mandate can be implemented and help support a sustainable vehicle marketplace in the UK,” Willcox said in a statement.
Vauxhall and its Germany based sister brand Opel are shifting to selling only battery-powered cars from 2028.
Stellantis said in July that its factory in Ellesmere Port, England, will be the first in the group’s production network to build only electric vehicles. The plant will produce Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen vans starting at the end of 2022 to replace output of the Astra compact car that is being transferred to Opel’s factory in Ruesselsheim, Germany.
Mike Hawes, CEO of SMMT auto lobby group the SMMT, said the announcement was welcome at a time when sales of EVs were rising in the UK at a pace “beyond all forecasts.”
“A well-designed, flexible regulatory framework could help maintain or even increase this pace to ensure we deliver on our shared decarbonization ambitions,” Hawes said in a statement.
The UK market share of battery-electric vehicle grew to 15.2 percent in September from 6.7 percent in the same month of 2020, according to SMMT data.
The British government in November said it plans to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars and vans in 2030 and it will extend the ban to hybrid vehicles from 2035.
The charging industry welcomed the government’s announcement on Tuesday that it would set aside a further 620 million pounds for electric vehicle grants and help to expand the charging infrastructure.
“We have seen the positive impacts on EV uptake of these schemes in North America, where they have significantly built up availability and consumer confidence of electric vehicles,” said Tanya Sinclair, Director of Policy UK, Ireland and Nordics, for charging provider ChargePoint.
The government did not publish details of how the zero emission vehicles mandate would work or when it would be applied. However, the plan is expected to follow the zero-emissions vehicle mandate structure laid out in a paper published by the government in July.
The paper said specific zero emissions vehicle sales targets for cars and vans should be implemented alongside current average CO2 emissions targets that automakers have to reach, rather than replace it.
The UK copied the European Union CO2 auto emissions reduction goals when it left the trading bloc at the beginning of the year.
The British government’s ZEV mandate proposal as laid out in the July paper favored the zero emissions mandate as a way to overcome the shortcomings of the WLTP emissions test, which forms the basis of CO2 calculations in the EU’s targets.
Automakers would be given credits selling a zero emission car or van and would need to collect a certain number each year.
“For example, if the [ZEV sales] target was set at 20 percent, and a manufacturer sold 200,000 vehicles in a particular calendar year, they would be required to hold 40,000 credits at the end of the year,” the paper said.
However the paper proposed that partial credits could also be awarded “for vehicles that are not wholly zero emission, but that are cleaner than petrol and diesel cars and vans” potentially meaning sales hybrids and plug-in hybrids could quality for credits up right up to 2035 when the country will ban sales of combustion engine vehicles.
The paper also suggested that “supercredits” could be awarded to vehicles with a long electric range or or a range that is “significantly more efficient” than most other vehicles.