22% of new cars must be electric vehicles from 2024 as government eco plans rule out e-fuels in ZEV mandate

ZEV mandate consultation sets out targets for transition ahead of 2030 petrol and diesel ban as well as huge fines for non-compliance

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More than a fifth of new car sales will have to be electric from next year under the government’s plans to tackle transport emissions.

From 2024, car makers will have to ensure that at least 22% of their new sales are of zero-emissions vehicles or face heavy fines as part of proposals set out in the Department for Transport’s zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

The DfT confirmed the target as it opened a consultation on the mandate, which includes minimum zero-emission sales levels, exemptions for small firms and rules on how car makers can buy extra “credit” to sell polluting vehicles.

Announcing the consultation, which runs until May, the DfT also dismissed the idea of using synthetic e-fuels to allow combustion-engine vehicles to remain on sale beyond 2035.

The ZEV mandate will come into force from next year and will require car makers to ensure at least 22% of their new car sales and 10% of new vans are zero emissions in 2024. This will then rise incrementally each year to 80% for cars and 70% for vans in 2030 and 100% for both by 2035. In February 2023, EVs accounted for 16.5% of all new car registrations.

Manufacturers who can’t meet these targets face fines of between £15,000 and £18,000 per vehicle. However, under the current proposals, they will be able to buy extra ZEV “credits” to balance against their deficit from other manufacturers who have exceeded their targets. They will also be able to bank credits from one year to another or borrow from future years’ allowance. Those that contribute vehicles to car sharing schemes will also receive extra credits under the proposals.

Firms which sell fewer than 2,500 cars per year are also exempt from the targets until 2029.

While purely petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from 2030, the government intends to allow sales of hybrids that have “significant zero emission capability” to continue until 2035. However, the latest announcements don’t elaborate on what counts as “significant” EV-only running. And although ZEV also includes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, only two are currently on sale in the UK and their sales figures are barely into double figures.

By 2030 manufacturers will have to ensure 80% of new cars sold are total zero-emission (Photo: Nissan)By 2030 manufacturers will have to ensure 80% of new cars sold are total zero-emission (Photo: Nissan)
By 2030 manufacturers will have to ensure 80% of new cars sold are total zero-emission (Photo: Nissan)

No to e-fuels

The EU has announced a partial U-turn on itcs 2035 ban on combustion engines, saying it will allow the sale of new cars which run on carbon neutral e-fuels beyond that date. However, the DfT said it would not follow suit and remained committed to only allowing vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions.

A spokesperson said: “E-fuels are not proven technology, have expensive and complex supply chains, and emit much of the same pollutants as petrol and diesel. They might have a role for specialist vehicles, but we are not looking at them as a solution for normal cars and vans.

“We remain committed to helping people switch to electric vehicles, having invested £2 billion so far, ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2035.”

The details of the mandate have been welcomed by many industry observers. Melanie Shufflebotham, COO of Zap-Map, commented: “It is good news that the government appears to be reaffirming commitment to the ZEV mandate and has not given in to pressure from lobbyists. It has announced a final consultation on its plans but there’s no time to waste if it’s truly serious about decarbonising transport.”

Guy Spence, managing director of LV= ElectriX said the mandate could help bring down the cost of new and used EVs. He said: “As ever, the devil is in the detail – it’s essential that the plans are bold enough and there aren’t any loopholes that may jeopardise results.

“If done right, the zero emission vehicle mandate will help us reach price parity of electric vehicles with petrol and diesel cars sooner. It should also increase the makes and models of electric cars available and will have the longer-term benefit of a more buoyant second-hand market for electric cars, making EVs more affordable across our communities.”

Charging expansion

The ZEV mandate was announced as part of the wider Powering Up Britain strategy designed to deliver the government’s net zero ambitions. It also included the announcement of £396 million funding to improve the provision of public EV charging points in England via the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure fund On-Street Residential Charging Scheme.

RAC electric vehicles spokesman Simon Williams said: “Extra funding for charging infrastructure is welcome as we know around a third of all homes in the UK don’t have a driveway for a chargepoint to be installed, which makes switching to an electric vehicle less straightforward. With the Government imposing a mandate for zero-emission vehicle sales on manufacturers, it seems logical that this should be matched by targets for local authorities and charging networks to install a certain number of chargepoints, to meet demand from the expected increase in electric vehicles on the road.”

Melanie Shufflebotham, of Zap-Map, added: “The switch to cleaner and greener transport is crucial to tackling the climate emergency, so we welcome the additional investment in infrastructure for electric vehicles. There’s been huge growth in the number of EV charging points across the country but we need to ensure no-one is left behind, so it was also good to see extra funding for on-street residential chargepoints which will help those without off-street parking and garages.”