/ Motoring

Are electric cars still too expensive for you?

Two i-Mievs

From January 1st you’ll be able to get a hefty £5,000 discount on certain low-CO2 cars thanks to a new Government grant. So, will it be enough to entice you to buy an electric car in 2011?

The Government certainly hopes you will. It (and the previous Labour administration) has put a lot of effort into making the UK a hub of zero-emissions motoring.

Last week the Department for Transport announced the low-CO2 cars that from January 1, will qualify for a £5,000 subsidy named the Plug-In Car Grant. But even after the price cut, are any of them tempting enough?

What cars qualify for the grant?

Firstly there are the city cars. Launching in January, the tiny Mitsubishi i-Miev will sell for £23,990 after the grant is applied (although this is after a pretty staggering price cut). I’ve driven one, and found it decent enough for purely urban driving, but I can’t imagine it selling like hot cakes anywhere else.

Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero will start leasing out their own rebadged versions of the i-MiEV soon after, for £415 a month.

The smart fortwo electric drive will also be available to lease from January 2011 – although prices for when it goes on sale in 2012 haven’t yet been announced. I tried a prototype version last year and like the i-MiEV, felt it would be an option for city dwellers only.

The Indica Vista, made by Indian manufacturer Tata, is due in 2012 – but little has been heard of it so far.

Not all of the cars that qualify for the grant are fully electric, so how do they measure up? The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt and the Vauxhall Ampera are among these, but the fact that they all have petrol engines as well as battery packs will negate buyers’ worries of running out of charge. So they’re a bit more ‘real-world’, but cost might still put mainstream buyers off: they’re predicted to sell for between £27,000 and £34,000. Plus they’re not on sale until 2012.

Interestingly, the only car already on sale that meets the grant criteria is the Tesla Roadster – a sports car. The DfT has confirmed that the firm has applied for the scheme, so it’s surprising that it was left off the initial list. Perhaps the delay is a clever PR move – after all, ‘taxpayers subsidising £90,000 sports cars’ won’t play well with the tabloids.

To buy or not to buy?

To my eyes, the only show in town right now is the Nissan Leaf – out in March, it is a proper family-sized five seater. With a 100-mile range and low running costs, plus a relatively affordable price tag of £23,350 (after the grant), it’s the best choice out of the cars that qualify for the grant.

Will this grant give you an extra nudge to go out and buy an electric car in the New Year or do you remain unconvinced?


Believe it or not, there is a huge chunk of the UK outside of London, Manchester etc. These vehicles may well suit those who live in large cities – what use are they likely to be to those of us who stay well ‘out of town’?
We are 40 miles from the nearest ‘city’ – in fact it is the oil capital of Europe. That’s Aberdeen, by the way!
I must admit to a tad of disappointment – many topics being raised appear to concentrate on London (the tube needing wifi etc). I appreciate it [London] is probably considered the hub of the universe to many – BUT, honestly, there is life outside of its parameters!


Whoops – sorry! I actually also meant to raise the question: ‘Considering the extreme temperatures presently being encountered by some parts of the UK (well below zero) – what effect does this have on ‘battery charge’ for these vehicles?’


Hi Danny – thanks for your comments. We do try to ensure we cover a range of topics every day, some of which are more relevant to Londoners/city dwellers, but hopefully many appeal to a wider geographical audience too. I’ve just dug out a few older Conversations that might be of interest to you if you don’t live in a city:
And we’re always looking for interesting new topics/angles to cover, so do get in touch via our contact us page if you have any ideas you’d like us to cover! (https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/)


My fairly detailed experience with the old lead acid batteries is their charge diminishes with temperature.

But to answer the topic – I will not buy an electric car until they are similar in price to a standard petrol car not £10,000 or more dearer.(say £7000 on the road) Nor will I buy one if the very time consuming charging times are not significantly reduced. I will not wait say 1/2 hour a day to charge my car. I only have access to on road parking.

The only electric car I would buy is around £7,000 o t r and battery change (not battery charge) facilities were universally available..The amount of charge required would be enough for 300 miles.


Actually a lead acid battery is worse at very low temperatures. Not only does their output fall, but a cold car will be more difficult to start (cold oil is thicker, engine is tighter, etc.).

At higher temperatures, the lead acid gives a better output (the chemical reaction is more active at higher temperatures).


I’m pretty sure NiCad, Ni-Mh and Li-Ion are all pretty much the same in that there output is lower at low temperatures. However, the newer technology batteries tend to get **** hot when subjected to high current drain. So probably they may quickly get hot in use and keeping them cool may present more of a problem.

IMHO, all electric cars won’t make the grade until some form of new battery technology comes along. Hydrogen cells did look promising but there doesn’t seem to be an economical way of storing hydrogen (due to hydrogen molecules being the so small).


I’m anticipating delivery of my Nissan Leaf in March 2011. I’m not about to have an argument about it… just as I don’t argue with people that say ‘a calculator will never replace paper and pencil’ or ‘computers will never become main-stream’.

Our reliance on oil has run it’s course as all the ‘easy’ oil has been found… fact. Oil will never run out… just get more expensive. However, it’s not for it’s environmental credentials that I’m buying a Leaf… it’s for it’s silent running, comfort and interconnectivity ie can turn on the heater from my mobile etc. That I will never have to pump fossil fuel again is a bonus.


Great progress. Turn on your heater by your mobile so that the car is warm before you get in.

Pity that the battery will be too flat to go anywhere then (unless it is plugged into the mains at the time).


I agree with Danny above. No good to anyone living miles from the nearest city. Our nearest large town is some 15 miles away, never mind a city. Birmingham is 50 miles and bristol 70 miles.
Even the best electric cars will only go 100 miles on a charge, and thats before you put your lights, heating and air con on, which all reduces how far it will run.
We often travel from Herefordshire to Norfolk, which would not be possible on a single charge.
For people like us, better to go for a petrol/electric hybrid eg.Toyota Avensis etc..