Petrol and diesel hybrid cars will still be permitted to be sold in 2040, the government revealed.

In a move welcomed by the car industry, but not by environmental campaigners.

As the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy is revealed, the Government pledged to take steps to enable a massive roll-out of infrastructure to encourage motorists into electric vehicles.

As revealed by Autocar in May, the strategy will allow electrified models to be sold, so long as they are classed as ultra-low emissions vehicles. Currently there are 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVS) on UK roads. At present, these are cars that emit on average less than 75g/km of CO2, of which the vast majority are plug-in hybrids capable of electric-only running.

New car sales are running at around 2.7 million a year, with ULEVs claiming just 2.2% of the market. The Government wants to see such vehicles claim at least half of the market by 2030, and preferably 70%, along with 40% on new vans.

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, confirmed on Monday that hybrid cars – powered by electricity and diesel or petrol – would be exempt, despite the ministers pledge last year to ban new cars powered by fossil fuels by 2040.

According to The Guardian, Grayling said he believed the best method was to influence car buyers: “I want it to be easier for electric vehicle drivers to recharge than for motorists to visit a filling station. I want them to choose electric cars because they are so convenient.”

He said a delayed £400m charging fund would be launched this summer to help expand infrastructure across the country, with hundreds of thousands more charging points on streets, in new homes and in workplaces.

He said that as well as reducing pollution, the strategy set out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in zero-emission transport, which represented “a huge global opportunity for industry and business” worth £1 trillion a year by 2030.

Environmental groups accused the government of weakening its commitments. Greenpeace said the car industry was “yet again being given a free pass” and the targets were weak by international standards.

The Campaign for Better Transport said it was disappointing, describing it as a “step backwards, giving concessions to keep hybrids on the road, which will water down the already inadequate 2040 target.”

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