THE Government has been accused of moving the goalposts by bringing forward plans to eliminate sales of new petrol and diesel cars and extending the ban to hybrid vehicles.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the Government intends to scrap sales of all new combustion engine powered cars by 2035 - five years earlier than before - in a bid to speed up efforts to tackle climate change.
He also revealed the ban would now extend to hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles which were not previously included in the strategy.
Once in place it would mean only pure electric or hydrogen powered cars would be available for sale.
But the announcement brought angry responses from automotive industry leaders who said the plans would undermine current efforts being made by car makers to reduce emissions.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, called on the Government to do more to clarify its environmental policy.
"It's extremely concerning that Government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue," said Mr Hawes.
"Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020. However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it's clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment.
"This is about market transformation, yet we still don't have clarity on the future of the plug-in car grant - the most significant driver of EV uptake - which ends in just 60 days' time, while the UK's charging network is still woefully inadequate.
"If the UK is to lead the global zero emissions agenda, we need a competitive marketplace and a competitive business environment to encourage manufacturers to sell and build here.
"A datewithout a plan will merely destroy value today. Sowe therefore need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today's low emission technologies,including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now."
His calls were echoed by vehicle fleet operator body the BVRLA whose members own and operate more than five million cars, vans and trucks and buy nearly half of all new vehicles sold each year,
Gerry Keaney, the BVRLA chief executive, urged the Government to match its new carbon reduction targets by unveiling a comprehensive EV support package in the forthcoming Budget.
"Budget 2020 is an opportunity to set the tone for a new decade in which the transition to decarbonised road transport will be won or lost," said Mr Keaney.
"Fleets are being asked to invest billions of pounds in new electric vehicle technology and infrastructure, which comes at a hefty price premium to its petrol and diesel alternatives.
"To achieve these goals the Government must provide a clear support package through to at least 2025. It must preserve the Plug in Car and Van Grants, maintain a strong set of tax incentives and tackle the huge and often arbitrary costs associated with fleet charging infrastructure."
The Prime Minister made the announcement at the launch of the COP26 UN Climate Summit which will take place in Glasgow later in the year.
Mr Johnson said the world had seen "a catastrophic period of global addiction to hydrocarbons that got totally out of control".
"We have to deal with our CO2 emissions, and that is why the UK is calling for us to get to net zero as soon as possible, to get every country to announce credible targets to get there - that's what we want from Glasgow," he said. "And that's why we have pledged here in the UK to deliver net zero by 2050."