The UK Isn’t Banning New Gas and Diesel Car Sales


The UK wants to reduce Nitrogen Oxide pollution, but it’s not regulating internal combustion out of existence yet.

There’s a decent chance you woke up this morning to stories about the UK moving to ban sales of all new gas- and diesel-powered cars by 2040 to reduce Nitrogen Oxide polution. It’s a huge move for this major car-building nation, echoing France’s recent announcement that it plans to do the same thing. Too bad it’s not happening.

The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced today that it’s moving to ban the sales of conventional gas- and diesel-powered cars and vans by 2040. First noted by Autocar, a Defra spokesperson confirmed to Road & Track that its definition of “conventional” gas- and diesel-powered cars and vans essentially means vehicles that don’t use hybrid assistance. Under this new regulation, automakers will still be able to sell internal-combustion powered cars, as long as they are hybrids in some capacity.

Suddenly, Defra’s announcement doesn’t seem so extreme. Really, it’s a reflection of where the automotive industry is already headed.

Diesel-powered cars—which pollute more Nitrogen Oxide than their gas powered counterparts—are already on their way out, and many automakers are stepping up their hybridization efforts. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and others have promised more so-called 48-volt “mild hybrids,” which use small electric motors in tandem with internal-combustion engines.

So, internal-combustion still has some life left in the UK, but that doesn’t mean the country isn’t heading towards a zero-emission future. Defra aims for all of London’s public transit to be zero-emission by 2050, and it wants a majority of cars and vans on the road to be all-electric by that point too.

Make no mistake—gas- and diesel-powered cars have an expiration date, it’s just further away than you might’ve thought.

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