Green car uptake not electrifying, RAC Foundation says

Take-up of UK Government's green car scheme 'less than electrifying'

Take-up of a UK Government scheme to promote ‘green’ vehicles is ‘less than electrifying’, the RAC Foundation says.

The RAC Foundation, highlighting official Government figures, said just 215 electric cars were bought under the scheme in the period April-June 2011. This compared with 465 for January-March 2011 - the first three months of the scheme.

Under the Plug-in Car Grant scheme, individuals and businesses have been able to apply for discounts of up to £5,000 on the purchase of cars producing 75g or less of CO2 per one kilometre. However, the cars qualifying for the scheme cost much more than £20,000, even including the Government discount, although the Government hopes that in time, as manufacturers make these vehicles in greater volume, the cost will come down.

The RAC Foundation said the low-carbon vehicle take-up had been “less than electrifying”. The figure of 680 represented - in grants - just £3.4 million of the £43 million the Government has set aside for the scheme until the end of March 2012, it said.

Professor Stephen Glaister, the foundation’s director, said: “We back this scheme, but the figures show the mountain we have to climb if the national car fleet of 28 million vehicles is to turn truly green. Even with the grants, electric cars are still much more expensive than similar-sized petrol and diesel models.”

“Despite the lower fuel costs associated with electric cars, the high purchase price means it will take owners several years to reap the financial benefits of not choosing fossil-fuel powered vehicles.

“In the short term, motorists will have to think long and hard about whether electric cars give better value for money than the best conventional and hybrid models,” Professor Glaister said.

Amongst the vehicles eligible for purchase under the scheme are the Nissan Leaf (£25,990 after the grant) and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (£23,990 after the grant). The Vauxhall Ampera, which will be part of the scheme from early next year will be £28,995 after the grant.

The Government figures also showed that the number of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) registered for the first time in the UK in the period January-March 2011 was 882. These ULEVs include electric cars, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The 882 figure compared with 237 in the January-March 2010 period.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting the early market for low emission vehicles in the UK. They are essential in making reductions in CO2 emissions from road transport. We can’t turn our back on the automotive sector that adds around £11 billion a year to the UK economy.

“Relative to the number of electric cars registered in previous years, the numbers bought over the last six months represent a step change.

“We expect uptake to increase as more vehicles come to market - for example, the new Renault Fluence has just become eligible for the grant - and today’s announcement from Chargemaster on 4,000 charging points across the country is a clear sign of the private sector getting the bit between its teeth to support this new market as well,” the spokesman said.

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