When Will Petrol Cars be Banned in the UK?

You may have heard that the UK is going to ban the sale of petrol cars in the future, but when will it happen and what vehicle’s will be affected?

In the UK, the government has announced it’s intention to ban the sale of all new petrol cars by the year 2035. As well as petrol cars, the intended move will also see the sale of new diesel and even hybrid vehicle. However, no legislation has been introduced to put any of this into law, and they are now already looking at bringing it even further forward to 2030!

When questioned about the cost of the infrastructure required to meet this target by Julia Hartley-Brewer on her TalkRadio breakfast show today, the government’s Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove appeared to have no idea about the detail of how this startling policy can be realised.

It seems to bystanders as though this policy has been thought up on the hoof, and it probably has. It appears to be designed to placate the increasingly zealous environmental lobby ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 UN convention in Glasgow this year.

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Well, I’ve been crunching a few numbers to help out Michael Gove, so here are my findings.

At last count, there were 8,422 petrol stations in the UK, and the average number of fuel pumps per station is around 8. That means there are approximately 67,376 fuel pumps in the UK.

It takes around 5 hours to charge the battery of an electric car like the Nissan Leaf, so let’s say the average charging point can charge up to 5 cars in a 24-hour period. A petrol pump can fill up 288 cars in 24 hours – if you assume it takes 5 minutes to fill up a car with petrol or diesel. That means you need 57.6 times more electric charging points than petrol or diesel pumps to service the same amount of vehicles.

To be able to recharge the same amount of electric vehicles as fossil fuel vehicles a petrol station would need 460.8 charging points (and a lot of land!)

There are 67,376 pumps servicing 32.5million passenger cars in the UK. There were 2.31million new cars sold in the UK in 2019. Just to replace the existing pumps would mean 101,064,000 charging points would be needed, but that would be if you could charge an EV as quickly as you can fill up with fuel – which you can’t.

Even just to service the 2.31million new cars sold in one year would require (1 pump per 482 vehicles) 4,792 charging points. If you then accept you need 57.6 times more charging points than petrol pumps that number increases to a whopping 276,019 charging points. There are currently just 9,300 public charging points in the UK.

At the moment, installing one commercial electric charging point costs around £1,500 + VAT. Just to install enough charging points for one year of car sales if they were electric would cost £414,075,000. And that’s not including the cost of digging up streets, new lamp posts, and the inevitable cost multiplier of it being a government project.

If 32.5million cars need 67,376 public fuel pumps, 32.5million electric cars would need 3,880,857 EV charging points. AT £1500 each, that would mean a cost of £5,821,285,500. As far as government projects are concerned, that’s not actually a lot of money. Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

The cost of £1,500 + VAT for installing a charging point is for installing where there is already space for a vehicle and an electric supply in close proximity. To make this 2035 “electric dream” a reality would require much, much more than £1,500 per charging point.

In reality, there isn’t the land for petrol stations to accommodate the 20, 30, 40 or more vehicles at a time it would require to meet the new charging demands. This would mean on-road charging points – possibly in lamp posts – and the huge costs involved with digging up roads etc.

I live in a terraced house with no off-road parking in a street where it can be impossible to park – never mind park outside my house or next to a lamp post. I live in a holiday town, and last year in August (bank holiday), a parking space didn’t become available for six solid days.

Nobody moved their vehicles because they knew they may not get parked again for days. How on earth would I be able to charge an electric vehicle in these circumstances, even if there were charging points in the lamp posts?

And what happens to the economy when people can’t get around or are late because they can find a place to charge their car or they have to wait hours until the charging point becomes available?

Now, I will be fair and admit that battery and charging technology is improving all the time, and most people don’t drive as much as they think. Vehicles will undoubtedly be capable of charging much more quickly in the future, but it is never going to be as quick and convenient as filling up with petrol or diesel.

It’s not just the sheer cost of installing the necessary charging infrastructure to be able to ban cars powered by fossil fuels, it’s the logistics of charging too. And of course, we haven’t even begun to investigate how we’re going to generate all the extra electricity required to meet this new demand.

If anyone thinks we will be able to power 32million electric vehicles (not to mention lorries, busses, trains etc.) by building more windmills they’re deluded. As it appears to take about 20 years to build one new nuclear power station that we can’t afford without Chinese investment and French expertise, where is all this extra electricity going to come from?

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

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