Auto industry criticizes UK plan to bring forward ban on combustion-engine cars

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LONDON — The U.K. government’s decision to bring forward a ban on sale of internal combustion engine cars to 2035 has been sharply criticized by the country’s automakers association, the SMMT.

Britain will ban the sale of new gasoline, diesel and hybrid cars five years earlier than planned, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he announced details of a U.N. climate summit called  COP26 due to take place in Glasgow in November.

“We have to deal with our CO2 emissions,” Johnson said at a launch event for COP26 at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday. “As a country and as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act.”

The ban, which had been slated for 2040, will include plug-in hybrids, the BBC reported.

The SMMT expressed anger that the government is announcing the change without including additional government support to help the U.K.’s auto industry, which is still reeling from the effects of more than three years of uncertainty following the Brexit vote in 2016.

“We need to hear how government plans to fulfill its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs,” said SMMT CEO Mike Hawes. “A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.”

Johnson’s Conservative party made a promise to help establish a battery gigafactory in the U.K. ahead of elections in December, but didn’t attach a cost to it and hasn’t mentioned it since winning the country’s general election.

U.K.-based automakers such as Jaguar Land Rover have said access to locally produced cells is a key part of making the shift to electrification,

Demand for electric vehicles has surged in Britain, Europe’s second-largest car market, but diesel and gasoline models still account for 90 percent of sales. Prospective buyers of greener models are worried about the limited availability of charging points, the range of certain models and the cost.

The government said last year it was providing an extra 2.5 million pounds ($3.25 million) to fund the installation of more than 1,000 new charge points for electric vehicles on residential streets.

Although the ban will not come into force for another 15 years, the change will affect decision-making sooner as carmakers decide on investments long before a vehicle first rolls off a production line with a model life cycle lasting around seven years.

The ban poses a threat to German jobs because Britain is the biggest export market for its car manufacturers, amounting to about 20 percent of global sales, and electric cars take less time to build than combustion-engined or hybrid variants.

Cities and countries around the world have announced plans to crack down on diesel vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal and the EU is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules.

France plans to ban the sale of combustion-engine cars by 2040, while Norway’s parliament has set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars should be zero emissions.

Reuters contributed to this report

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