UK will ban the internal combustion engine in 2035. Here’s what it means.

As the UK brings forward the ban on new petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars to 2035 (from 2040), the initial reaction has been that we're not ready for this. But we have 15 years to get there and that's a long time for new innovations to make it possible.

Speaking at a launch event for the UN COP26 summit to be held in Glasgow in November 2020, the Prime Minister announced plans to bring forward the ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 5 years from 2040 to 2035.

Needless to say, the first responses were that we’re simply not ready for this change 15 years from now. And these articles all cited the same issues that have been challenging electric car adoption for decades.

Wired identifies some of the issues facing buyers in 2020…

…buying an electric car in the UK in 2020 is far more complex than stumping up the cash and plugging it in. Range, charging, tax breaks, location, your driving habits and even the weather all come into play.

On the other hand, environmental groups believe that 2035 can’t come soon enough and that the goal should be accelerated even further Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth stated…

A new 2035 target will still leave the UK in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere.

The fact is, we need to act and we need to act with urgency. We already know the challenges we need to overcome to replace our fleet with electric vehicles. We’ve already made some huge innovations in battery technology, and Tesla has proven, at least in the US, that the challenge of range and access to charging points is a solvable challenge that we simply need to scale.

Matt Allen, CEO at Pivot Power, underscores the urgency we need to meet this issue…

…while I’m in agreement that there are some big, fundamental issues that need to be addressed to allow for this electrified transport revolution to efficiently take place (vehicle availability, ample model options for consumers, interoperability of charging, abundant and scalable power infrastructure to provide vehicle charging, owner ‘experience anxiety’, end of life cell recycling, accessing essential raw materials ethnically for cells, etc), the reality is – we simply don’t have a choice.

Whilst it’s not the government’s role to solve all of the challenges, it is their responsibility to set the stage and incentivise the direction in which the market goes. Tightening the timelines is an essential declaration of intent.

For many, it’s difficult to think ahead because we tend to look at the future through today’s lens and we underestimate what we can do in a decade, let alone 15 years, especially when technology is accelerating.

In the past 2 decades, EVs have evolved from fringe projects like the GWiz, to a point where all major manufacturers have EV vehicles on the market. EVs used to be second-class citizens in terms of performance, reliability, street-cred, safety, whatever your measure. Now there are staggeringly good examples. In many ways, vehicles from Tesla and the Porsche Taycan aren’t just the best electric cars on the road, they’re the best cars on the road, full stop.

And while not priced for mass-market adoption, technology trickles down, becoming more affordable to the consumer market. There will always be hesitation from those who don’t understand the accelerating pace of technology and the plummeting costs associated with progress.

Yes, we have challenges. But at least we understand them and we have real solutions. There is a way, and the planned legislation simply increases the will. We’re not ready today but we can do a lot in 15 years and the tipping point might be even closer than we think.

Of course, battery technology will be key to unlocking the EV transition.

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Image credit – Unsplash

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