Engine revolution by 2040: How realistic is it?

  • Video report by ITV News Science Correspondent Alok Jha

Motoring experts said the Government's clean air strategy that aims to ban new petrol and diesel vans and cars by 2040 could create "more problems than it solves".

Car industry experts say infrastructure, loss of fuel duty, affordability of electric cars, lack of charging points, the small take-up of ultra-low emission cars and strain on the National grid are among the issues that need to be addressed before the scheme is implemented.

Quentin Willson, former presenter of Top Gear, also questioned the cost of the scheme, telling Good Morning Britain the new measures would run into trillions.

He said: "You are going to have to get rid of 15 million diesel cars, you'll have to change car factories, no more petrol stations, just think about what that's going to do.

"I have no problem with the ideology ... the practicality of it is, will we in 22 years have the infrastructure, the lithium-ion batteries that will give us one charge that delivers 300 miles?"

Electric cars make up just 4% of the market share currently and it would be a "tall order" to increase this to 200% in 23 years, said Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine.

"The car industry has proved time and again that it can hit demanding targets, but at the moment electrified cars are both more expensive and less usable than traditionally-engined ones," he said.

"The risk is that this announcement creates more problems than it solves".

The AA described the strategy as "a step in the right direction" but insisted there were "plenty of factors that need to be addressed".

The government wants electric cars to replace fuel burning cars. Credit: PA

Significant investment will be required to install charging points across the country, including fast-charge points so cars can be topped up within half an hour, according to the firm's roads policy spokesman Jack Cousens.

He predicted that the National Grid would be under pressure to "cope with a mass switch-on after the evening rush hour".

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said there is still "a lot to do" to get the take-up of ultra-low emission cars "on the right trajectory" as there are only 100,000 of them on the road out of a car fleet of more than 30 million, Mr Gooding said.

But Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, which runs a network of electric vehicle charging points, said changes in the industry would mean such a ban may not be needed.

He said: "The market will beat both governments (the French and British) to this, there won't be any new petrol or diesel cars available to buy anyway by 2040."

Karl Benz makes his first test run in Germany, October 1885 with the world's first car powered by a gas combustion engine. Credit: AP

East London gas fitter Frederick Bremer is credited as the man who built the first petrol-fuelled car in the UK in 1892.

Two years later, he took his still incomplete four-wheel car out onto the roads of Walthamstow, a decade after German Karl Benz invented the world's first car powered by a gas combustion engine, a three-wheeled motor car named "Velociped".

The first diesel-powered car, the 260D by Mercedes-Benz, didn't come into production until 1936.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) from earlier this month show in the year to date, nearly 130,000 petrol cars had been registered - more than 50% of the market - compared with more than 100,000 diesel vehicles, or 42.5%.

But as the Government outlines plans for a ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, the era of the combustion engine is drawing to a close.