The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned within a decade, Boris Johnson is set to announce next week as part of a broader package of green initiatives.
In February, Mr Johnson announced that the existing ban on selling new petrol or diesel cars would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035.
Now the prime minister is expected to move the date forward to 2030 in an attempt to jump-start the market for electric cars in the UK and push Britain towards its climate goal, according to industry and Whitehall figures.
However, the government is expected to keep the less stringent date of 2035 for the phase-out of the sale of hybrid cars that plug in to charge.
While electric car sales are rising strongly, they are still below 7 per cent of all new vehicles bought across the UK last month, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The car industry has long argued that significant funding for infrastructure is required to help convince the majority of motorists to switch to the new technology, which is currently more expensive than traditional petrol or diesel models.
Some £500m of government funding towards charging infrastructure is expected to be rolled out starting next year.
The money will help fund new grid connections to allow remote facilities such as motorway service stations to install a far higher number of fast-charging charging points.
There is still widespread consumer confusion about the differences between battery electric cars that have no engine, and various forms of hybrid that combine batteries and traditional motors.
Last week, the Department for International Trade wrote on Twitter that Nissan’s new Qashqai model would be an “electric” car, when the model is actually a hybrid.
The industry has lobbied hard for the sale of new hybrid cars to be phased out at a later date than traditional petrol and diesel models, arguing that they are a way of getting most consumers acquainted with the technology.
One in four cars sold in the UK contains some form of hybrid technology.
Toyota, which owns two UK facilities, previously warned that outlawing the hybrid models made at its Burnaston plant would jeopardise future investments in Britain.
Honda, which manufactures cars in the UK, said measures relying almost solely on battery cars within 15 years were “too narrow”.
It said that while all of its cars sold in the UK will be hybrid by 2022, “there are technological and resource constraints that will be more difficult to overcome and which mean that battery electric cannot replace internal combustion engines in all segments”.
Mr Johnson has long been planning to make a major green speech setting out his vision for switching to a low-carbon economy, which is at last expected to take place next week.
His predecessor Theresa May committed the UK to achieving “net zero carbon” by 2050, requiring the end of fossil fuel power for the electricity system, transport and household heat.
Mr Johnson is also keen to burnish Britain’s green credentials ahead of next year’s COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow.
Next week’s speech is expected to feature pledges on hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, offshore wind and household insulation. Mr Johnson is also set to give the go-ahead to new nuclear power stations — such as Sizewell — and money for small modular reactors (SMRs).
Officials cautioned that Mr Johnson could still plump for the less ambitious target of 2032 for the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars — but he is understood to be leaning towards 2030. The earlier target had been opposed by Dominic Cummings, who quit on Friday as the prime minister’s most senior aide.
Policy documents circulated across government included the date as “203X” in order to prevent the intended date from leaking.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, has long called for a 2030 cut-off point for the sale of petrol and diesel cars.
The UK government is also drawing up a long-delayed energy white paper which is expected to set out plans for decarbonising the energy sector in line with the 2050 target.