The car industry and politicians are on a collision course after the Business Select Committee called for the 2040 target to ban the sale of new cars with petrol or diesel engines to be brought forward by eight years.
The Government unveiled the target last summer with environment secretary Michael Gove calling for a move to electric vehicles with zero emissions. He said that Britain "couldn’t carry on" with conventionally powered cars because of the damage they do to the environment and people’s health.
Now MPs on the committee want the ban to be accelerated to 2032 with precise targets, calling the current plan "unambitious and vague".
But the UK’s car industry has warned that bringing forward the deadline will pile pressure on the sector which has slashed spending in the face of falling sales caused by Brexit-related economic uncertainty and confusion over the future of diesel.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders warned the 2040 target was “already extremely challenging”.
"To fast-track that by eight years would be nigh on impossible," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the trade body. "Zero emission vehicles make up just 0.6pc of the market meaning consumer appetite would have to grow 170-fold in just over a decade.
"It’s unrealistic and rejects the evidence put forward by the industry which is investing billions into the technology."
The new deadline comes in a business committee report which says if Government is serious about hitting environmental targets and making Britain a driving force in electric vehicles (EVs), it must bring forward the ban to promote investment in them.
Rachel Reeves MP, chair of committee said: "For all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the Government’s deeds do not match the ambitions of their words.
"UK targets on zero emission vehicles are unambitious and vague, giving little clarity or incentive to industry or the consumer to invest in electric cars."
The report also called for state backing to expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, saying it could not be left to local authorities or private industry and the current regime was "not fit for purpose".
It also called for the abandonment of a recently announced £1,000 reduction to £3,500 of government subsidy to buyers of electric car to be abandoned, and for lower taxes on zero-emission vehicles.
One highly placed car industry source warned the Government that it "needs to take us with them with realistic proposals on what we can do or risk destroying the sector".
“We can build the cars, but the Government needs to provide the infrastructure that is currently lacking and we need it at speed,” they said, adding that the "only realistic path to the 2040 path is incentivising consumers in electric vehicles".
National Grid backed the report’s proposals state-support for a charging infrastructure. Graeme Cooper, electric vehicles director for the power transmission business, added: "Consumers are holding back on buying their next car due to range anxiety. A robust network of publicly accessible rapid charge points would provide the confidence to help drive the UK faster towards mass market electric vehicle take-off."