(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The government will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of popular use of the fossil fuel-guzzling internal combustion engine.
Britain's step, which follows France, amounts to a victory for electric cars that could eventually transform the wealth of major oil producers, car industry employment and one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism: the automobile itself.
The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while the French government also aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.
The 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 scrappage scheme to get rid of the most polluting vehicles.
'Today we are confirming that that means there should be no new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040, Environment Minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio.
Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives had pledged to make 'almost every car and van zero-emission by 2050.
The Times newspaper said the supply of hybrid vehicles which have both an electric and petrol or diesel engine would also end.
There is a mountain to climb, however. Electric cars currently account for less than 5% of new car registrations in Britain, with drivers concerned about the cost and limited availability of charging points and manufacturers worried about making expensive investments before the demand is there. 'We could undermine the UK's successful automotive sector if we don't allow enough time for the industry to adjust, warned Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
While many automakers may fGove also said the government would make £200mn available to local authorities shortly for schemes to restrict diesel vehicles' access to polluted roads.
He said he favoured road-by-road restrictions for diesel vehicles rather than outright bans from town centres or costly vehicle scrappage schemes, but did not rule them out entirely if they were local authorities' preferred options.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, of the opposition Labour Party, said the government's commitment was half-hearted and steps needed to be taken before 2040 to tackle air pollution.
'We need a fully-funded diesel scrappage fund now to get polluting vehicles off our streets immediately, as well as new powers so that cities across the UK can take the action needed to clean up our air, Khan said in a statement.
Turning away from oil will add to discussions about whether the world is reaching peak oil demand and how additional electric power can be generated.
Some companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, expect demand to peak as early as by the end of the next decade. Demand for diesel cars fell 10% in the first half of the year in Britain while sales of petrol vehicles rose 5%, according to industry data. Sales of electric and hybrid models rose by nearly 30% in the same period, the fastest growing section of the market albeit from a low base.
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