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Sir Richard Branson’s ‘utopian vision’ of 2025 AFV target dismissed as ‘incredibly unrealistic’

A Tesla Destination Charging charge point

Sir Richard Branson’s vision of a ban the sale of vehicles powered purely by petrol or diesel by 2025 have been dismissed as “incredibly unrealistic”.

The entrepreneur Virgin founder, who once ran his own Formula One team but now delivers backing to a Formula E racing outfit, believes that the government’s plan to make the shift by 2040 should be reappraised and brought in-line with the earlier deadline set by Norway and the Netherlands.

But Al Preston, co-founder at WhoCanFixMyCar.com, said that although a utopian vision when considering the environment is an “admirable thing, it is incredibly unrealistic to think that the UK could ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025 rather than the current deadline of 2040.”

Preston described the 2040 target as already a “very ambitious goal”, adding: “There are many deep-rooted challenges we face as an industry, the biggest being infrastructure.”

Speaking to the BBC, AA president Edmund Kinglso expressed his doubts, stating that the length of time it takes to charge an electric car, compared to filling one up with petrol, is a real challenge.

He said: "There is absolutely no way that we could have the infrastructure for 32 million cars being charged at the same time – so we'll have to change the way we think about fuelling our cars."

Momentum is clearly growing towards the widespread adoption of hybrids and electric vehicles, however, and many suggest that 2040’s target will be reached through natural, incremental growth in the EV sector.

Earlier this week the SMMT reported that demand for AFVs had grown by 36.1% to 11,240 units during May, accounting for a record 5.8% of the market.

Plug-in hybrid cars were the biggest driver of growth, with a 72.7% rise bettering hybrids’ 22.6% rise and EVs’ 18.7% growth.

Just under 50,000 new EVs sold in the UK during 2017 and Tom Callow, from the UK’s largest charge point specialist, Chargemaster, told April’s AM Digitech Conference that he expects that figure to rise to just under 70,000 this year with the number of EVs on UK roads reaching a million by the end of 2022 – just 3% of cars.

From that point the trend accelerates, though, with around one-in-six vehicles expected to be powered purely be electricity by 2027.

Speaking to DS Virgin Racing owner Branson as part of its insight into Formula E, the BBC’s Newsbeat programme was told that the race series is driving the faster development of EV technology.

Branson said: “Every month the technology is getting better and better.

"The teams want to be the best out there, so they're pushing for improvements in battery technology.

"That will mean that when more cars are driving on batteries, they'll be able to go hopefully a few hundred miles rather than maybe 150 or 200."

Stating his belief that 2025 should be the Government’s target for a ban on the sale of ICE-only powered vehicles in the UK, he said: "I honestly think that we've got to bring everything forward because there are concerns that we could actually have sea levels rising by over 100ft if we lose a big chunk of the Antarctic.

"Therefore we've got to move the process of moving to clean energy quicker than most governments around the world are doing."

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