In November 2020, the U.K. became the first major economy to announce a ban on gas-powered cars by 2030 and hybrids by 2035. On Thursday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the ban would be moved ahead by five years. Sunak wants to maintain the U.K.'s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, but is pushing back the internal combustion ban over a lack of voter support.
"If we continue down this path, we risk losing the British people and the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies, but against the wider mission itself," he said in a press conference, per Reuters. Sunak also said that the U.K. could afford to move a little slower towards its net-zero emissions goal because it is "so far ahead of every other country in the world" in this regard.
While the U.K. is not the world's largest car market, it is an influential country in the automotive world. Its move in 2020 signaled to the public that more internal combustion car bans were on their way, and that was the case. In 2022, the EU proposed a ban on gas-powered cars by 2035, but since then, Germany has thrown up opposition to the plan. In the U.S., the EPA recently proposed a plan that would effectively mandate two-thirds of EV sales by 2032, though naturally, there is political opposition.
Automakers, which have to plan far in advance due to the high cost and years of work it takes to develop a new model, aren't happy with Sunak's changes.
"Our business needs three things from the U.K. government: ambition, commitment, and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three," said Ford U.K. chair Lisa Branklin in a statement.
Automakers are spending billions to develop EVs based in no small part on moves by large economies towards banning the sales of gas cars. When those bans are delayed, or possibly rolled back, demand for EVs can possibly weaken.
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