What does the switch to electric mean for heavy vehicles?


The government recently announced that it intends to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040. The move follows similar plans laid out by the French government falls in line with climate change goals and air quality in major cities.

Combatting issues like global warming and poor air quality – particularly in metropolitan areas – have been cited as considerable reasons for the momentous decision. With the traditional combustion engine dominating the automotive industry for over a century, the move to push more electric-powered vehicles pretty much signals the end for fossil fuels.

How motors will be affected

After some initial confusion, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that the 2040 ban only applies to vehicles solely powered by diesel or petrol. This means that new hybrid engines will still be allowed, as they combine traditional combustion engines with an electric motor.

The current demand for alternative fuel vehicles is still incredibly low compared to traditional engines, but sales have been steadily growing in recent years. By alleviating concerns over things like the availability of charging points and overall cost of electric vehicles, the government can hope to see a jump-start in this market over the coming years.

What about larger vehicles?

The plans broadly relate to cars owned by the general public and certain sectors like the taxi industry. However, for commercial drivers, things are a little more vague right now. Some organisations across the haulage industry are already working to combat emissions issues as laid out in the Freight Carbon Review by the Department for Transport.

Various opportunities are emerging to shift heavier vehicles towards low emissions. Retrofitting for electric or hydrogen fuel cell technologies are feasible for vans, light HGVs and public transport. It could be several years before any major changes come about, but with a commitment to reducing emissions before 2050, putting the wheels in motion now will likely lead to significant results in the future.

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