Andy Palmer on the UK's 2030 engine ban

Published: 08 January 2021

► UK engine ban moves to 2030
► Plug-in hybrid confirmed for 2035
► Applies to new car sales

The UK Government has confirmed that it will ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2030 as part of what PM Boris Johnson is calling the 'Green Industrial Revolution'. This time frame for a ban has moved from 2040 via 2035 to the current date, now just nine years away, as part of a 10-point plan for the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Keep reading for advice and reactions from key voices in the UK automotive industry.

Andy Palmer speaks on 2030 ICE ban


After his departure at Aston Martin, Andy Palmer was appointed non-executive chairman of InoBat Auto, a battery production company that specialises in using artificial intelligence for finding the best battery chemistry for different vehicle markets, and Optare in the UK. Palmer has been in the industry since 1979 developing, among other things, the first-generation Nissan Leaf from an idea to production, so has plenty of experience when it comes to battery technology and electric cars.

‘I’ll first caveat by saying I’m broadly supportive of a journey that takes us to net zero carbon, so I applaud the initiative – it’s more the how,’ Palmer told CAR. ‘Going in isolation has potentially unforeseen circumstances; we are not a leader and never will be a leader in EV – that boat sailed thirty years ago because we don’t own our own industry.’

In terms of the whole auto industry in the UK, Palmer says that InoBat has the right ideas to make battery technology work for many individual sectors. ‘Through their relationship with Wildcat, a tech company in California, they have acquired this AI methodology of developing chemistries and enables them to develop chemistries according to the mission in front of them. The AI allows you to look at those combos and find an optimum chemistry, make the cake to suit the purpose – you don’t want a fruit cake for a birthday party, for example.’

But it’s the UK’s methods of getting to net carbon neutral that Palmer says don’t sit right: ‘I’ll hypothesise this: I think EVs are best for passenger cars and buses but, almost certainly, it will be a synthetic fuel or fuel cells for HGVs.

‘But I don’t think it’s the role of politicians to pick technology,’ Palmer said. ‘If you get myopic and only allow all of the talent to optimise EVs, you’re essentially eliminating everything else. You want your universities looking at the plethora of solutions and let Darwinism to sort the best ones for each of the sectors.

‘What the UK is doing, seemingly, by picking a winner is taking itself off the table, which risks the next big breakthrough,’ Palmer adds. ‘And that’s a pity because it was a British institute that invented the lithium-ion battery.’

Electric car buying advice:

At the confirmation of the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 'the government will invest more than £2.8 billion in electric vehicles, lacing the land with charging points and creating long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories.'

Mike Hawes, chief exec of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: ‘Investment in EV manufacturing capability is equally welcome as we want this transition to be ‘made in the UK, but if we are to remain competitive – as an industry and a market – this is just the start of what’s needed. We will now work with government on the detail of this plan, which must be delivered at pace to achieve a rapid transition that benefits all of society, and safeguards UK automotive manufacturing and jobs.’

The car industry has welcomed the news, with Adrian Hallmark, Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors, saying: 'Bentley welcomes clarity on the future law for the UK car market, and will be ready for the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from 2035. We also welcome the recognition that PHEVs can have in the transition to a fully electric car parc and the key role they can play in immediate and significant CO2 reductions if used properly. Bentley customers are already embracing the plug-in vehicle, with a third owning one today.'

He added: 'We also acknowledge the Government’s new ambitious yet necessary targets and timelines, and the focus now needs to shift onto creating and implementing a cross industry plan to bring infrastructure and customers along on this important journey. Bentley is ready to transform itself, and support the wider UK mission to meet this challenge.'

Does this mean my current car will be scrapped by 2030?

No. The Government wants to ban new car sales powered by petrol and diesel engines from 2030 and PHEVs in 2035. Existing car stock will, presumably, merely be taxed to the hilt by then, but ministers want to ensure that all brand-new cars are powered by electricity only, not fossil fuels.

Exhaust pipe

This is, of course, the natural direction of travel anyway; electrification is already well underway, so the Government is merely confirming an inevitable industry trend.

Why is the UK banning diesel and petrol cars?

Ministers claim that 40,000 premature deaths each year are caused by pollution and the wide-ranging measures are designed to clean up Britain's air quality.

There are more immediate changes than the 2035 ICE ban; there is a new £255m fund to encourage local councils to tackle emissions, encourage public transport and - potentially - set up charging zones for the dirtiest vehicles.