Slow sales could see £170m of electric car grants go unclaimed

Nissan Leaf front
17 Feb, 2014 2:15pm Alex Yau

Government green car grants worth £170m could be unclaimed by 2015 as electric car sales fail to take off

Millions of pounds worth of government grants designed to encourage the purchase of 'ultra low-emissions’ vehicles may remain unclaimed by 2015.

The scheme set up in 2011 by then transport secretary Philip Hammond, has failed to meet initial predictions so far. £400 million was set aside to fund grants of up to £5,000 for anyone purchasing an eligible hybrid or electric car. However, slow uptake of these vehicles has forced the government to accept that only £230 million may actually be handed out by the 2015 deadline, leaving £170 million unclaimed.  

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Roads minister Robert Goodwill said: “Sales of ultra low emission vehicles have been increasing year on year, but at a slower rate than originally anticipated. We are currently projecting to spend £230 million over the period. 

"Grant uptake in 2013 was 335 per cent higher than in 2011, grants in January 2014 were at a record level and 679 per cent higher than the equivalent month in 2013.”

Recent figures from the Department of Transport show that only 6,709 claims, costing £33.5 million, were made by December 2013. Demand also fell short of the 8,600 claims expected by the Government in the scheme’s first year. 

A similar grant encouraging the purchase of low-emission vans has also failed to take off. Owners of eligible vans can get up to £8,000 in grants, but only 404 claims have been made since January 2012. 

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Battery powered cars might well be the future, but these figures demonstrate a continuing consumer suspicion of their abilities and economics. 

"A big vote of confidence would be more interest from fleet buyers and businesses. The good news for drivers thinking of going green is that there is plenty of grant money left in the pot for them and the underlying price of these vehicles is gradually falling.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently announced a £9 million investment in charging points to boost low-emission cars that would help meet future emissions targets. He also unveiled Go Ultra Low, a publicity campaign aimed at dispelling common myths about the cost and reliability of electric and hybrid vehicles

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Given how long it takes to recoup the cost of these vehicles, it doesn't make economic sense to buy one just for the sake of it (plus the fact that the only really usable one is the Vauxhall Ampera and unfortunately....well, it's a Vauxhall).

So Boris is forcing these things on the London taxi trade!

People aren't daft - a monthly battery lease and the fact you can't travel more than 30 miles away from home aren't great plus points on a 20 grand car.

Aside from the brief range, EVs remain expensive to buy in comparison with conventional cars. However despite these limitations, electric cars are doing very well in countries where the incentives extend beyond a £5,000 subsidy and there are plenty of charging points. UK could learn a lesson or two from Norway where electric cars are outselling conventional cars.

Vauxhalls are an intelligent buy.

But electric cars can't make an economic case against an internal combustion car in 99% of driver requirements.

Charging points are OK, but subsidies have got to STOP. Every time someone buys one of these electric cars, £5K of taxpayers cash goes abroad. If somebody wants an electric car, then they can buy it with their own money, not mine, thanks.

They could make sense running on urban routes, with plenty of recharging points available.

For the rest of us, there's little point until the main issues of range and charging time are addressed.

In a decade, things will probably have moved on - witness Tesla in the US for an outfit that is really pushing the technology hard.

Our postman has a 31 mile daily delivery round and the van spends more than half it's time sitting there ticking over, but HMG will not give the cash to the Post Office. Anybody remember electric milk floats (as seen on Father Ted)? The surplus reminds me of the ill-fated PowerShift grant scheme of 2000 - some people never learn, but it's OUR money they are spending!