UK set to introduce Zero Emission Vehicle mandate for car manufacturers in 2024

Pictured: Manufacturing line at Nissan's plant in Sunderland. Image: Nissan

The aim of such a mandate is to ensure that automakers are properly preparing for the UK’s 2030 ban on new pure petrol and diesel car and van sales. Sales of hybrid cars and vans will then be permitted through to 2035, provided they meet the Government’s requirements on emissions and driving distance. With transport having been the UK’s highest emitting sector since 2016, the mandate could help the UK to stay within its future carbon budgets.

On Friday (7 April), the DfT opened its consultation on the form its Zero Emission Vehicle mandate should take, after first pledging to do so last autumn in the Net-Zero Strategy.  The consultation will run through to 10 June.

The consultation documents confirm that the DfT is intending to implement a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate from 1 January 2024. Secondary legislation will be introduced in 2023 to help businesses prepare.

Yet to be confirmed is the Department’s precise proposal for what proportion of cars and vans automakers should be required to electrify or otherwise decarbonise. The Department is asking for the latest data on zero-emission-vehicle update forecasts, as well as information about the likely impact on emissions from various targets, before making a decision.

On cars, the proposed proportion range in 2024 is 20-30%. The Net-Zero Strategy is predicated on a 22% mandate in 2024, increasing to 52% through to 2028. For vans, the proposed proportion range in 2024 is 8-15%. The aims on vans fall short of what the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended – a 34% proportion range in 2024, scaling to 79% in 2028.

“Our aim in setting ZEV uptake trajectories to 2035 is to provide market certainty,” the consultation documents summarise. “Demand is increasing rapidly. The mandate will give certainty about the minimum proportion of zero-emission cars we expect to be supplied, although consumer demand may naturally exceed this level.”

Monthly trends figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) for March revealed that battery-electric vehicles accounted for their highest ever market share of monthly sales – 16.1%.

Devil in the detail?

The consultation documents stipulate that automakers will likely be given certificates for each zero-emission car and van they sell, once the mandate comes into force. They will be required to hold a certain number of certificates by the end of each year from 2024. Those failing to meet their certificate targets will face fines.

Also floated is the idea of a certificate trading scheme, whereby companies unlikely to meet their targets could purchase certificates from others who have exceeded expectations. In this way, poorly performing companies could, for a time, “offset” their sales of cars and vans which are not zero-emission.

Zero Emission Vehicle mandates have been recommended by a wide range of green groups for several years. Additionally, during the DfT’s first consultation on such mandates last year, several large automakers voiced support. However, it is unlikely that the move will be made without resistance – particularly from international automakers operating in the UK, and in other nations with weaker long-term climate targets and interim plans to cut road transport emissions. Toyota has already vocally voiced its opposition to the UK Government’s plans.

The DfT is notably also proposing that emissions regulations for petrol and diesel cars are tightened once the mandate comes into force in 2024. The consultation documents confirm that further information will be published by the end of the year, with its intentions being to “prevent any part of the fleet from being left ‘unregulated’” and to “avoid increases” in emissions from the UK’s stock of conventional cars and vans. There would be no certificate or trading schemes here.

Energy Security Strategy link

The consultation documents notably make reference to the Energy Security Strategy, which was published on Thursday (6 April) following weeks of delays and reports of Cabinet in-fighting. That Strategy has a headline vision for 95% of the UK’s electricity generation mix to be low-carbon by 2030.

“The requirement to sell an ever-increasing number of zero-emission vehicles that, crucially, can be powered by increasingly renewable energy sources, is vital for the UK’s energy security,” the documents state.

“Recent global events have demonstrated that continued reliance on fossil fuels makes the UK susceptible to geopolitical issues when those issues impact on global fuel production. As an island nation, the UK has the best wind, wave and tidal resources in the whole of Europe. The new regulatory framework will promote the use of this domestic energy production, reducing our reliance on imports.”

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