The U.K. government wants to end the sale of new diesel and petrol (gasoline) cars by the year 2035.
The plans, which were announced Tuesday and are subject to consultation, also include hybrid vehicles. U.K. authorities had previously said the sale of new petrol and diesel vans and cars would end in 2040.
Grant Shapps, the U.K.'s transport secretary, said that the government's £1.5 billion ($1.95 billion) strategy to "make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible" was working, claiming that in 2019 a "fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes."
"We want to go further than ever before," Shapps added. "That's why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions."
In practice, ending the sale of petrol, diesel or hybrid cars or vans would leave consumers with a choice between electric and hydrogen vehicles.
"Drivers support measures to clean up air quality and reduce CO2 emissions but these stretched targets are incredibly challenging," Edmund King, the president of driving association the AA, said in a statement issued in response to the government's new target.
"We must question whether we will have a sufficient supply of a full cross section of zero emissions vehicles in less than fifteen years," King added.
Battery electric vehicle registrations in the U.K. grew to 37,850 in 2019, according to recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. This represents an increase of 144% compared to 2018, when 15,510 were registered.
While this growth is encouraging for advocates of low and zero emission vehicles, the market share for battery electric vehicles in 2019 was just 1.6%, while hybrid electric vehicles had a 4.2% share. At the other end of the spectrum, petrol had a market share of 64.8%, while diesel's share was 25.2%.
The U.K. is one of many countries looking to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles. At the start of January, the Irish government announced plans to ban the sale of "fossil fuel cars" by the year 2030, while Denmark has also proposed a phaseout of new diesel and petrol car sales in 2030.
Reacting to the Tuesday's announcement, Friends of the Earth's Head of Policy, Mike Childs, said the government was "right to accelerate the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars to curb air pollution and address the climate emergency, but the ban should start in 2030 — not 2035."
"A new 2035 target will still leave the U.K. in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere," he added.