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The 2035 Internal Combustion Ban – Why You Don’t Need to Panic!

Chris Pollitt is an award-winning automotive word-wrangler, editor of the website Not 2 Grand and a keen collector of crappy old cars.

The 2035 Internal Combustion Ban – Why You Don’t Need to Panic

On the 4th of February 2020, the UK Government announced it was bringing forward its 2040 ban on the sale of all internal combustion cars forward to 2035. As if that wasn’t enough, it also went on to state that hybrids or other partially electrified cars would not be exempt from the ban, which was a backstep over the 2040 ban.

Needless to say, social media was alive with people shouting loudly about these plans. And it’s with that in mind that we thought it might be wise to step in and offer some clarity, especially for those of us who like to drive cars powered by liquified dinosaurs. The ban is coming, make no mistake, but in the long run, it’s a better thing for the planet, it’s a better thing for classic cars and most importantly, nobody is going to take your internal combustion car away from you.

What is the 2035 petrol-diesel ban?

In a nutshell, manufacturers will, as of 2035, no longer be allowed to sell cars that are powered entirely or partially by internal combustion. This, of course, has sent people into a frenzy. Many who have bought hybrid vehicles are now livid and seem to be missing the point that nobody is taking their cars away in 2035, that’s not how it works. It means that if you walk into a dealership in 2035 – any dealership – every car will be 100%. NEW internal combustion cars will be past tense as of New Year’s Day, 2035.

The big issue with the new ban over the ‘old’ 2040 ban lies between the Government and manufacturers. The latter has invested heavily in hybrid technology, so to be delivered a blow like this is going to cost millions if not more. Furthermore, many respected think tanks and experts in the automotive space have gone on record to say that hybrid cars are an important and ultimately crucial part of the greater shift into 100% electric territory.

2035 is not far away in the grand scheme of things, and the technology of electric vehicles, while good, isn’t quite ‘there’ yet. More work needs to be done battery technology, infrastructure and of course, public opinion, many of whom dismiss electric vehicles completely. And you may think that’s nonsense give the number of electric cars on the road. But let us put it into numbers for you.

In 2019, 37,850 electric cars were sold, and that’s an impressive 118% increase in 2018. However, we also bought 1,498,640 petrol cars and 583,488 diesel. In the case of the latter, that’s a huge decrease in 2018’s 726,000. But we’re not putting the black pump down in favour of electric. EV cars represent just 1.6% of the UK market.

How does the 2035 ban affect me?

At the moment, it doesn’t. The world still turns, there is still petrol available at the pump. All is well. The biggest change was the Government’s removal of the purchase grant on hybrid vehicles, which it rescinded due to people not using the hybrid function, and instead of using the grant as a means to get discount on a new car. The grant remains in place for fully electric vehicles, however, with said grant covering up to 35% of the vehicle’s retail price or £3,500, whichever is smaller.

Petrol and diesel cars are still for sale, you can still drive them, you can still own them. Nothing is changing there. New petrol and diesel (admittedly less do in the case of the latter) will still be released. You can bet your bottom dollar that manufacturers are still going to offer them right up to the death.

But why? You can’t drive them after 2035

No. That is not how this works. This is where social media is going bananas and as is usually the case when the masses pile into a topic, they’re wrong. As of 2035, you WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BUY A NEW PETROL OR DIESEL CAR. When you wake up on New year’s Day, 2035, men in black suits aren’t going to come and take your Astra away. You will still be able to drive it, own it, put fuel in it, all that jazz.

The only impact this will have on you, at the moment at least, is where you can drive it. This is especially the case with diesel cars. Bristol, for example, has opened the floodgates by creating a 100% ban on private diesel vehicles in the city, which could be enforced as of 2021. If it is enforced, you can be sure other cities will follow. Whether or not petrol cars will follow remains to be seen.

Over time, the ultimate goal is, of course, to get heavily polluting cars off the road (ignoring the fact that the modern internal combustion engine has less impact on the environment than it ever has, but that’s another post). You can be sure that MOT emission standard will become more stringent, there will be heavy incentives in the form of ‘scrappage schemes’ to bin internal combustion in favour of electric, and there are already handsome tax incentives to do the same.

So I can still drive my old car after the 2035 ban?

Yes, you can. You don’t have to hide it in a corner. It’s not suddenly going to become contraband. Society still has to remain mobile, and the Government can’t just abolish the use of the internal combustion engine. It is trying to bring about a shift into electric, make no mistake, but not at the risk of becoming a dictatorship over all things automotive.

What about classic cars after 2035?

If anything, they’re safer than they have ever been. Though of course, it’s all speculative at this stage. However, the classic car industry in the UK is worth around six billion pounds, and the Government isn’t going to want that to go away.

The only downside is that it’s foreseeable that there may one day be a hard line of what is considered a classic, but again, we’re just speculating. The Government will want to avoid people driving a 1998 Mondeo, and calling is a classic to get around the rules, whatever the rules may be at that point.

No need to panic then?

No. We are, and it’s upsetting to say this, in the twilight years of the internal combustion engine, and that is very sad indeed. It has been the motivator and mover of billions, our world is built around the best infrastructure, it has easily been the most important and most significant technological evolution this planet has ever seen second only to electricity.

It’s a shame that we can’t see where manufacturers can take this idea, how far they can push it. Instead, we have to celebrate the cars we have, and the cars we will be given in the next fifteen years.

Times are changing, make no mistake. But you need not sharpen your pitchfork or hide your classic car away. We are still welcome. In the grand scheme of things, keeping a classic car going is better for the environment than buying a new one, but again, that’s another post altogether.

Think of it this way – the 2035 ban will help old cars because they’ll have more fuel between them. Every cloud and that.