Eco conscious drivers are urged to make their electric car purchase sooner rather than later as the Governments' £5,000 Plug-In Car Grant (PICG) is predicted to finish at the end of the year.
Originally introduced in 2011, the scheme came with a guarantee to motorists that it would continue until 50,000 grants were awarded. Early uptake was low, and two years into the programme just 3,200 applications had been approved – principally due to a lack of electric vehicles. However the launch of Nissan's 'Leaf', the success of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in, and the fact that a further 35 models became available has further fuelled demand.
From January to May this year, the number of electric cars sold in the UK (and therefore eligible for the £5,000 grant) increased to nearly 12,000. This was four times the number driven away from forecourts over the same period last year.
This means the 50,000 limit is in sight. To date, the government has awarded around 36,000 grants. If sales continue at the same pace, the money will easily run out before the end of the year, possibly even sooner.
Whilst typically more expensive than conventional petrol and diesel cars, electric vehicles are zero-rated for car tax as well as being exempt from the London congestion charge (£14 a day) – but, crucially, their running costs are impressively low.
A fully charge car will cost around £2 to £3 to run and will give an average range of around 100 miles. Driving the same distance in a petrol or diesel car is estimated to cost on average around £15. In addition free charging and free parking is also available at charging points in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Those in the know have re-enforced positive aspects electric driving. Carlos Ghosn, head of Renault-Nissan, said the world is on the brink of an “electric car revolution".
Car manufacturers recognise that government funding has helped drive sales, and as a result will not want to see a grants come to an abrupt end.
The big question is what effect will the loss of the grant have on sales? According to the RAC the grants have been crucial and they predict “the money will run out in months". Philip Gomm at the RAC Foundation says: “That's why they are hastily reviewing the eligibility criteria for cars. The result will be a tiered system that sets the bar higher for getting the largest discount. The review brings closer the day when the government bows out and these vehicles need to wash their own faces commercially."
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles has said that a new scheme will be introduced after the 50,000 grants are exhausted although details are not yet available.
By Tracey McBain