Four UK Cities Win £35 Million In Money to Promote Electric Cars, Some Adopt Norway-Like Perks for EV Use

When it comes to buying an electric car for the first time, the long-term financial benefits from low running costs, generous purchase incentives and low, trouble-free maintenance are often cited by car buyers as being major influencing factors in their buying decision. The larger the savings, the more likely they are to make the switch from an internal combustion engined vehicle to an electric one.

Other perks can influence a buyer’s decision too. As electric-car poster child Norway and the more than 50,000 privately-owned electric cars registered across the nation in the past five years has proven, offering electric car owners free parking, free charging and access to congestion-beating bus lanes — not to mention zero sales tax and vehicle registration fees — is just too good for most people to turn down.

Norway has worked hard to encourage EV adoption. Now the UK is following its lead.

Norway has worked hard to encourage EV adoption. Now the UK is following its lead.

Which is why we’re pleased to report that the UK Government has just announced that the cities of Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London will each receive a share of a £35 million funding pot designed to increase electric vehicle ownership and encourage more people than ever before to make the switch to a cleaner, greener way of traveling. What’s more, some of the cities involved will be learning from their European counterparts in Norway, offering access to bus lanes in city centers, single-occupant HOV-lane access, free parking, and increased charging station provision.

Announced back in 2015, the £35 million prize fund —  known as the Go Ultra Low City Scheme — was set up to allow four major UK cities to become centers of excellence for low-emission vehicles. In order to apply for funding, each city council had to submit its own proposals detailing what measures it intended to undertake in order to encourage electric vehicle mass adoption. While this gives each city a much tighter control over how the funds awarded it will be implemented, it does lead to some fragmented policies from area to area.

Bristol, Milton Keynes, London and Derby/Nottingham will split the £35 million pot.

Bristol, Milton Keynes, London and Derby/Nottingham will split the £35 million pot.

For example, Bristol — where TransportEvolved used to be based — plans to use the £7 million awarded it to offer residents who live within the city limits free residential parking if they own an ultra-low emission vehicle such as an electric car or plug-in hybrid, as well as single-occupant access to three high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes within the city, the funding of more than 80 new rapid and level 2 charging stations across the city and a scheme allowing people to lease a plug-in car for four weeks before making a decision to buy or not.

London meanwhile, which at £13 million gets the lion’s share of the funds, will turn more than a dozen streets in Hackney into “electric streets,” complete with charging stations integrated into the street lights. It will also develop a low-emission zone in Harrow offering parking and ‘traffic priority’ to plug-in vehicles.

Nottingham and Derby, which will receive a joint £6 million award covering the two neighboring cities, will install 230 charging stations for plug-in vehicles, as well as offering discounted parking to plug-in owners and free access to 13 miles of bus lanes in both cities. Additionally, a new support program will be set up for local businesses allowing them to try an electric or plug-in car for their business before committing to buying one.

Milton Keynes, already a supportive city for EVs, will receive £9 million from the funding program to open all 20,000 parking bays throughout the city to be free for electric cars, as well as giving plug-in vehicles access to bus lanes without fear of penalties. Additionally, plug-in owners will be allowed to use the same priority lights as busses and taxis at intersections, allowing owners of plug-in cars to get through the morning rush hour quicker than petrol and diesel car drivers.

In addition to the four key ultra-low cities, the UK government has also announced a smaller £5 million fund to develop specific initiatives in Dundee, Scotland, Oxford, York, and the north east of England. These include commuter charging hubs in Dundee, and solar-powered charging canopies at park and ride sites in York.

Free parking and use of carpool and bus lanes are being proposed in some of the cities awarded funds.

Free parking and use of carpool and bus lanes are being proposed in some of the cities awarded funds.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re glad to see further investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and the establishment of additional incentives and perks designed to encourage more people to make the switch to an electric vehicle. Having experienced rush hour in all of the four major cities receiving a share of the £35 million fund, we can certainly testify that access to key bus lanes will certainly help in cities where such programs are being implemented.

But with each city offering slightly different initiatives and programs, it may take some time before electric car owners new and old alike can get their heads around the different rules for each city. Until such measures are adopted on a broader basis, we think it still may cause some nasty headaches for those who are trying to work out just which incentives apply to them — and could confuse, not enlighten buyers to boot.

Do you live in any of the cities mentioned? Do you welcome the scheme? Or do you feel the UK government should adopt a nationwide policy?

Or perhaps you live elsewhere in the world and wish your local city or government would adopt the same kind of perks? Which ones would you adopt if you were in charge — and how would you pay for them?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Duncan Booth

    The Oxford Times described Oxford’s consolation prize as “100 electric car charging stations to be installed around Oxford in world’s biggest scheme”. Sigh.

  • Tonesey

    I think it’s a good idea but should be nationwide so people don’t get confused about where they can and can’t drive there electric cars.

  • Chris

    It’s good but I don’t think it’s going to make that much difference. It needs to be nationwide.

    But really not much more is going to happen until we get some new models. Nothing has been happening here for over a year and hardly any news.

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