The UK Government reinforced its commitment to electric cars earlier today by launching a £500 million initiative designed to get more Brits driving plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars.
Announced this morning by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the funds will be split between continuing purchase incentives to help people buy a plug-in car, increased deployment of charging infrastructure, and the funding of low-emission transport technology research and development.
£5000 purchase grant to continue
At least £200 million of the £500 million commitment from the UK government will be earmarked for continuation of purchase incentives designed to make buying an electric car more affordable.
Officially, the grants are available to any private car buyer purchasing a plug-in car, and can account for up to 25 per cent of the car’s purchase cost up to a maximum of £5,000.
Unlike the U.S. tax credit towards electric vehicle purchase, the UK £5,000 grant is applied at the point of purchase, and goes directly to the automaker, not to the customer. Because the grant is cost-dependent, some electric car advocates say the grant, while good for those wanting to buy a plug-in car, is also helping to keep electric car prices artificially high.
Or to put it another way, some say automakers price cars at £5,000 more than they know consumers will pay, because of the Government grant.
Expanded charging infrastructure
The lion’s share of the funds will go directly to fund the expansion of electric car charging infrastructure across the UK. Unlike previous projects, which focused on slow and fast-speed city centre charging in densely populated areas, the new funds will include the provision of fast and rapid charging along major motorway routes and A-roads across the country.
Of those funds, £32 million will be allocated specifically to that purpose, with more going to cities and towns wanting to achieve ‘ultra-low city status:’ cities where incentives like free parking, free bus-lane access or other perks are offered to plug-in owners.
This will not only mean greater redundancy for those networks who already provide inter-city charging options for electric car drivers, but should help eliminate any range anxiety in new car owners who are contemplating inter-city or inter-town travel for the first time.
Research and development
The final segment of the funds, equating to around £100 million, will be spent on continuing governmental research and development into electric cars and other low-emissions vehicles. While the government isn’t clear on the specifics, we suspect this will include, but not be limited to, fully electric and plug-in hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
In addition, we’d hope the funds are also used to investigate better ways of charging vehicles and providing a homogenous ownership experience for existing and future electric car owners, including a move away from segregated RFID-based networks and towards a more easy-to-use pay-as-you-charge system similar to those used at petrol stations.
Six years to find out
The latest Government incentive in electric and plug-in cars will run from 2015 through until 2020, with the purchase incentive scheme set to operate until at least 2017 or 50,000 of the £5,000 grants have been claimed.
But as with any government initiative, the proof won’t be seen for many years to come.
The biggest question is this: will the UK, which has stereotypically been fairly cool towards plug-in cars, change its attitude towards plug-in cars thanks to more government funding?
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