The Government’s new air quality plan says it will ban the sale of all new "conventional” fossil fuel vans by 2040.
The sale of new diesel and petrol cars will also be banned, but hybrid vehicles, which combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor, will still be permitted.
It will also provide a £255 million package to help councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles.
Measures to improve air quality, says the Government, will be funded through changes to the tax treatment for new diesel vehicles, or through reprioritisation within existing departmental budgets. Further details on changes to the tax regime will be announced later in the year in the budget.
Van drivers are also set to be given the right to use heavier vehicles if they are electric or gas-powered.
Furthermore, manufacturers found to be using devices on their vehicles to cheat emissions tests could face criminal and civil charges, with fines of up to £50,000 for every device installed, under proposed new laws.
The air quality plan puts the burden on local authorities to tackle the causes of air pollution, with the Government saying they should consider a wide range of "innovative options", exploring new technologies so that they can deliver reduced emissions in a way that best meets the needs of their communities and local businesses.
It continues: "Their plans could include a wide range of measures such as: changing road layouts at congestion and air pollution pinch points; encouraging public and private uptake of ULEVs; using innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encouraging the use of public transport."
However, if these measures are not sufficient, local plans could include access restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times, it says.
The plan says that local authorities should bear in mind such access restrictions would only be necessary for a "limited period" and should be lifted once legal compliance is achieved and there is no risk of legal limits being breached again.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says clarity is urgently needed to identify which vehicles will be affected in each of the Clean Air Zones (CAZs)
Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s director of UK Policy, told Commercial Fleet: “Uncertainty will hurt industry – FTA understands we won’t know where lorries and vans will be restricted until next year, giving only a year for businesses to plan their fleets, leaving many with potentially large bills on top of rising operating costs in a difficult trading environment.”
In addition to the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, there are five other cities – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – which will have to introduce CAZs by 2019. There may be other locations which, as part of their air quality plans, also decide to introduce CAZs.
The FTA says that with such short lead times for businesses to ensure their fleets are compliant, many will need additional support, in particular small businesses, those based within zone boundaries, specialist fleets, and van operators if included.
If vans are affected by CAZs, there will be little more than two and a half years’ worth of compliant vehicles in the fleet and no established second hand market. Many businesses will now be locked into lease agreements which extend beyond the 2019 deadline and will be costly to get out of.
De Jong said: “For those whose businesses operate inside a zone, a period of grace, giving them extra time to comply, would provide much-needed breathing space.
“Our worst fear is that some may be forced out of business altogether if the plans are not properly thought through.
“FTA is offering its experience and expertise to work with the local authorities affected, to help them develop their plans so that they achieve their aims of reducing NO2 whilst supporting businesses and the economy.“
Local authorities will need to set out their initial plans eight months from now, by the end of March 2018. These will be followed by final plans by the end of December 2018.
The Government says it will work with local authorities and others to consider how to help minimise the impact of such measures on local businesses, residents and those travelling into towns and cities to work where such action is necessary; and will issue a further consultation in autumn to aid development and assessment of options.
The measures considered in that consultation will include options to support motorists: in particular private car drivers on lower incomes, or those who may have to switch to a cleaner vehicle. Options considered could include retrofitting, exemptions and discounts from any restrictions or permit schemes for vans.
A targeted scrappage scheme will also be considered in this consultation focussing on certain groups of drivers who most need support (such as those on lower incomes or those living in the immediate vicinity of a CAZ) and providing an incentive to switch to a cleaner vehicle. It is not clear whether any scrappage scheme would be available to van ooperators.
It said: "A number of issues remain with such mitigation options and in particular with scrappage schemes – analysis of previous schemes has shown poor value for the taxpayer and that they are open to a degree of fraud."
The courts had ordered the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to produce a new air quality plan after judges agreed with environmental campaigners that previous plans were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits.
The Government had to publish its draft clean air strategy plans in May, with the final measures due by Monday (July 31).