The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (”OLEV”) has extended its consultation on the Government’s plan to end the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans by 2035.

The plan to bring forward the date from 2040 to 2035 (or earlier) was announced in February by Boris Johnson, after experts said that 2040 would be too late if the UK wants to achieve its target of carbon neutrality by 2050.

The consultation opened in February and was originally due to close on 29 May 2020, but this has now been extended to 31 July 2020. OLEV and the Department for Transport are asking for views on:

- the proposed, earlier, phase out date of 2035;

- the definition of what should be phased out (e.g. all fossil fuel powered vehicles, or just non-hybrids);

- barriers to achieving this;

- the impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society; and

- what measures are required by government and others to achieve a 2035 phase out date.

At the same time as bringing forward the phase out date, the Government also announced the inclusion of hybrid vehicles in the phase out, as well as petrol and diesel vehicles. The Department for Transport had previously confirmed, under the original 2040 phase out date, that all cars and vans would merely need full hybrid technology and the ability to drive only using electricity as a minimum.

The consultation comes at a critical time for OEMs, with some of the world’s largest pausing the manufacturing of their electric vehicle lines in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The consultation responses are likely to give a critical indication of whether the 2035 target remains at all realistic in the wake of the current global crisis, and the impact it may have on the automotive industry.

The fact that the Government is extending the consultation, in any event, may suggest that it will now be looking into any and all options available to it in order to support the revised 2035 target. This theory seems to dovetail with the Government’s recently announced, ‘Hydrogen Task Force’. Set up with £1bn of Government backing, the Hydrogen Task Force has the underlying aim of diversifying the Government’s approach to its overall carbon neutral strategy by looking into an increased use of hydrogen fuel cells.