Can I Still Buy A Diesel or Petrol Car?
Summary: In the UK any new petrol or diesel car sales will be banned from 2030 and plug-in hybrid sales by 2035. Sales of new electric cars continue to skyrocket, which will accelerate even more over the next 7 years as we approach the deadline set by the Government.
This does not ban the sale of any used petrol or diesel cars, it only applies to the manufacturing and sale of new ones. It takes 14 years on average for a car to be scrapped from new – millions of road users will require fossil fuels long after the ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 and the UK government has an overall aim of eliminating all CO2 emissions by 2050, although there are currently no plans in place to scrap existing petrol or diesel cars to help towards this.
In 2021 over 190,000 new electric cars and 114,000 plug-in hybrids joined the UK road, the largest increase on record for both. However, although sales are moving in a downward trajectory, over 960,000 cars powered by petrol alone (including mild hybrids) were still registered, almost 235,000 diesels (including mild hybrids) and just over 147,000 petrol-electric hybrids. So there is still a long way to go to eliminate petrol and diesel from new car sales, let alone removing them from our roads completely.
By the time manufacturing ceases on any kind of petrol-assisted cars in 2035, there will still be tens of millions of petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads, which will all still need to be fuelled. Demand from road freight, aviation and maritime sectors will continue too, so sales of petrol and diesel fuels will continue way into the future, although there are some important developments that will change those fuels.
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Synthetic Fuel & Biofuel
CO2 emissions are contributed to by fossil fuels and as of January 2023 there isn’t an end date for their availability, but oil companies and carmakers are working on fully encompassing carbon-neutral substitutes.
Synthetic fuels (or e-fuels) and biofuels have been around for several years and have the advantage of using the same infrastructure (transportation, storage and pumps) as fossil fuels. Engines for cars also run the exact same way on these fuels, with no difference in performance. These are often known as ‘drop-in’ fuels.
Biofuels are constructed from renewable energy sources, products such as biomass (e.g. wood or crop waste), oil extracted from plants, or recycled materials such as used cooking oil, or animal fats.
King Charles III has been backing the idea of biofuels for a long time, and even runs some of his own vehicles using biofuels based on waste from white wine and cheese production – but making this sustainable has been a real challenge to date.
Esso have become a pilot scheme in the South-East of England selling Esso Supreme 25% Renewable Diesel at 20 sites, it is made with a minimum of 25% premium renewable content – hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO).
The cooking oil is refined into a high-quality fuel component and blended with conventional diesel. Esso claims Renewable Diesel has 15% lower life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than its regular diesel. The main drawback is that it is more expensive as it costs more to produce.
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And for those of you wondering, no, it won’t make your car smell like the local chip shop!
E-fuels are synthetically produced CO2-neutral liquid fuels based on hydrogen and CO2 which, like biofuels, meet fossil-fuel quality standards and have the ability to be blended with regular fuels. This raw material is what differentiates them from biofuels. The cost of e-fuels is currently high, but is being welcomed by classic car owners and motorsport.
The downsides to e-fuels are their high costs and the need for large amounts of electricity during their production. So for them to be 100% carbon-neutral, they need to be produced using a renewable energy source (e.g. solar or wind power) or decarbonised electricity.
Porsche has heavily invested in a plant in Chile which produces e-fuels from hydrogen and CO2 using wind energy. It is claimed that these electricity-based synthetic fuels allow combustion engines to operate near to a CO2-neutral level. Porsche initially plans to use the e-fuel from Chile in motorsport and says it’s very possible that the first tank of fuel from its petrol and diesel cars leaving its factories will be of e-fuel.
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Filling Stations – What Does The Future Look Like?
In the UK there are roughly 8,000 petrol stations. This figure is lower than the amount there was in the 2000s, with it continuing to decline. But can we expect petrol pumps to be replaced by electric charging points across the board? It’s still in the development phase but oil companies are pushing ahead with public electric charging in the UK: Shell owns Ubitricity and BP owns BP Pulse. So while petrol pumps will obviously be around for many years to come there are several initiatives in place to phase them out, much like the red telephone box!
In January last year, Shell opened their first UK EV charging hub in Fulham, where they’ve replaced petrol and diesel pumps at the already existing fuel station with ultra-rapid charge points. This was the first time in history that a company had converted one of their existing sites to serve electric vehicles only.
Esso, Shell and BP were asked what they had planned for the existing petrol and diesel pumps (and biofuels and e-fuels), and whether there would be fewer of them. There wasn’t a reply from any of them.
However, lots of filling stations are owned by independent businesses that sell big-brand fuels, as opposed to oil companies. As a result of the plans to become carbon neutral, many of these independent fuel stations are having to look at new ways to make money. Some examples of these are deploying car washes, shopping and more recently Amazon Hub collection points. You will now often see companies such as Greggs, Aldi and Lidl expanding into independent filling stations.
“It’s not so much petrol stations than ‘food retailers which also sell fuel’,” says Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) which represents independent fuel retailers who now account for 65% of all UK forecourts.
“Fuel sales have declined 10% since the pandemic and owners of filling stations have been moving to add in ‘non-food sales’ as there is now a lot more local shopping from convenience stores.”
Since Brexit and Covid there has been an increase in valeting and car wash machinery, in response to non-compliant hand washes (not meeting environmental standards and ‘slave labour’ regulations).
There have been some independent garages that have put in EV charge points but they face an issue of needing them to be a safe distance away from fuel pumps and have access to a high-voltage power supply – they must be near an electricity substation.
“A lot are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach,” Balmer says. “Because some invested in 50kWh charging points but people are now demanding 100kWh for faster charging so the amount of time they stop can approach a fuel fill.”
There have been reassurances from the Motor Fuel Group (MFG), the UK’s largest independent forecourt operator with over 900 sites with brands such as Shell, Esso, Texaco, JET and Murco. They say that given the slow churn of the car parc, millions of motorists will require fossil fuels to fuel their cars long after the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars.
They say they have a commitment to supporting the affected motorists by providing the required fossil fuel infrastructure while enabling their transition to clean fuels with a major rollout of EV charging hubs.
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Petrol Filling Stations – Will They Become A Niche?
Let’s fast forward to 2032 in the UK, when the vast majority of new cars are likely to be electric that will be powered by batteries – essentially, improved versions of what are already on the market today. For the car owner who won’t be able to get by on a battery-powered car, there will still be the option to purchase plug-in hybrids until 2035. These are likely to only be for niche sectors as batteries and charging infrastructure will have both significantly improved to the point where almost everybody’s needs will be met by them.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles will most likely still exist but are also likely to be niche compared to battery-powered EVs as there seems to be no global imperative to develop them or commit to building the infrastructure required to support them.
As new cars transition to being mostly electric, and as we get closer to the 2030 deadline, used cars will start to follow along behind. The majority of the UK’s used car market will still be petrol and diesel cars in a decade’s time, although it will undoubtedly be on the decline.
It is likely that sports cars will remain available with petrol power right up until the 2030 deadline, so there will still be lots of used petrol performance vehicles on our roads for several years after that. There will also still be some people who simply prefer a petrol or diesel vehicle so will stick with them for as long as possible.
What we’re likely to see over the next decade however is significant growth of premium synthetic fuels, with suitably premium prices, for owners of sports and classic cars who tend to only use them for pleasure rather than daily commuting.
Petrol and diesel will still be available, although prices are likely to continue increasing as governments around the world keep upping taxes to ‘encourage’ owners to switch to EVs. It is expected that you will have to drive further to find a petrol station, and that cost per litre will be significantly more than what it is now.
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Need Gap Insurance?
There are a few different types of policy you can choose from when taking out your Gap Insurance cover with Click4Gap. These depend largely on how you intend to fund the purchase of your vehicle. So what car Gap Insurance is right for you?
If you paid cash for your vehicle, or paid a sizeable deposit, or if you financed it, Combined RTI Gap cover will pay out the shortfall between the cost of your vehicle and the market value at the point of claim, which is the amount your motor insurer will cover. This is cover that will protect you no matter if you use your vehicle for private use or for business.
If you leased your vehicle or it is under a contract hire agreement, Lease/Contract Hire Gap Insurance will cover you for the shortfall on your lease agreement, after your motor insurer settlement. If, for any reason, you change your vehicle within the first 90 days from the start date, we will also arrange to transfer your cover to your new vehicle without hassle or charge.
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