For years, Europeans have seen diesel-powered cars as the cleaner, greener, more fuel efficient alternative to petrol-powered vehicles. Yet in recent months we’ve seen governments across Europe — including the French and the British governments — admit in the face of illegally-high levels of diesel-produced nitrogen dioxide and particulate levels in the air that they were wrong.
While that’s left many drivers in the UK saying they feel ‘betrayed’ by the higher pollution charges they’ll face when taxing and fuelling the vehicles they were encouraged to buy for years, those in France may find a get-out clause that’s particularly appealing to them.
That’s because the French government announced last week that it intends to offer owners of older diesel cars up to €10,000 in additional incentives to help them replace their car with an electric vehicle as of April 1 this year. That’s far more than the blanket €6,500 ‘environmental bonus’ purchase incentive offered by the French Government to anyone who buys a plug-in car.
As AutomotiveNews (via Autobloggreen) details, the incentive is intended to rid France of the many hundreds of thousands of diesel cars on the roads which are more than ten years old and have inefficient or no particulate filters. With eighty percent of all French cars running on diesel, that’s a large number of cars to get off the roads.
“We have to eliminate old diesel cars that are more than 13 years old and have no filters,” said French Energy Minister Segolene Royal last week, adding that she hoped a simultaneous effort to raise diesel taxes to the same level as gasoline would make it “harder and harder” to use them.
“Sixty percent of the French population breathes air that isn’t healthy,” she continued. “Air pollution is a major public health issue.”
Applied to any electric cars on the market, the incentive would dramatically reduce the purchase price for anyone wanting a new electric car. In some cases — like the 2015 Renault ZOE for example — it would bring the cost of buying an electric car well below that of buying a comparatively-sized gasoline car.
Moreover, the incentive will give the French plug-in car market a much-needed boost. Despite the Renault ZOE being one of several natively-made electric vehicles, France hasn’t really embraced electric car yet.
In 2014, Renault’s home-grown ZOE sold just under 6,000 cars, while its alliance partner Nissan sold just 1,604 LEAF electric cars. As the chart below shows (via The Guardian), it managed a total of just 12,488 electric cars sold last year.
It’s also worth noting too that while the latest scheme is a nationwide one, some parts of France already offer generous incentives to those who buy a plug-in car. Assuming incentives can be stacked on top of one another as they can in the U.S., that could lead to some stupidly cheap electric cars for those who happen to currently own an old oil-burner and live in the right region, even if they can’t use both the oil-burner discount and the nationwide ‘environmental bonus’ at the same time.
Sadly however, it’s going to take more than just financial incentives to encourage many French car buyers to ditch their beloved oil-burning Peugeot or Citroen cars for a small electric one, especially in more rural areas where iconic station wagons like the Peugeot 504 and 505 wagons are still a very common sight.
And that’s before you even account for the many thousands of tiny, limited-top-speed ‘sans permit’ quadricycles found all over France. Often powered by tiny two-stroke diesel engines, these cars can be driven without a license, and due to their regulatory class have much more lenient emissions requirements to any other car.
Yet while it may not account for all the variants of diesel-powered transport on the roads of France, we think it’s an incentive we can see working elsewhere around the world, especially since it not only helps people get into a cleaner car but a safer one too.
Do you own a diesel-powered car at the moment? Or perhaps you own a gas-guzzling V8? Would you welcome a similar incentive designed to get you behind the wheel of a plug-in vehicle? Do you think it would work in your local area? And how many people would take advantage of the scheme?
Finally, do you think this is a fairer way of getting people to buy a new car than blanket tax credit or purchase incentives?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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