UK to ban sales of all new petrol, diesel cars and vans from 2040

All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned in UK from 2040 to counter the public health risks from rising levels of nitrogen oxide.

The commitment which comes after France announced a similar measure forms part of the government's much-anticipated clean air plan, which has been at the centre of a protracted high court legal battle.

According to the government, the move which will also include hybrid vehicles, was needed because of the unnecessary and avoidable impact that poor air quality was having on people's health. According to ministers it posed the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, costing up to £2.7 billion in lost productivity in one recent year.

''Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,'' a government spokesman said, The Guardian reported.

''That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3bn programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.''

However, there are some concerns over the government's clean air strategy.

According to Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? Magazine, it will be "a tall order" to increase the market share of electrified vehicles from 4 per cent of new car sales today to 100 per cent in just 23 years, The Telegraph reported.

"The car industry has proved time and again that it can hit demanding targets, but at the moment electrified cars are both more expensive and less usable than traditionally-engined ones," he said.

"These are hurdles that must be overcome to win over car buyers."

According to Holder, concerns over the charging infrastructure, the response of drivers to electric cars and the loss of billions of pounds of fuel duty meant "the risk is that this announcement creates more problems than it solves".

He told the Press Association, "While it would be good to see the Government putting some money on the table to sort out the air quality issue, a locally-led approach could create a confusing patchwork of rules for motorists."