The Plug-In Car Grant, a scheme offering £5k off the cost of ultra-low CO2 and electric cars, attracted just over 500 people in its first three months. So should the scheme be chucked on the scrap heap?
So, just 534 people took advantage of the £5,000 subsidy towards an electric or low-emissions car through the Plug-In Car Grant in the first quarter of 2011.
Introduced in January, there is sufficient funding in the Plug-In Car Grant pot to offer a £5,000 reward to 8,600 people who opt for a more eco-friendly electric car or ultra-low CO2 option this year alone.
With the scheme due to be reviewed at the end of the year, there are concerns that the grant could be unplugged altogether.
But don’t write off the incentive scheme just yet. Amidst all the talk, a vital factor hasn’t been emphasised enough – the availability of electric cars in the first three months of the year. Because from January just one electric car was available to buy outright – the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, costing £23,990 after the subsidy.
Nissan Leaf should boost numbers
While the Peugeot iON and the Smart ForTwo ED (Electric Drive) were both available for lease, it’s the sales of the Nissan Leaf, awarded European Car of the Year for 2011 (in rather dubious fashion), that will dictate the success of the scheme.
The Leaf has been identified as the key electric car of the year, featuring the practicality of a medium-sized car with the low running cost benefits of an EV. While it only has a claimed 100-mile range, it’s received the most press coverage, public interest and dealership orders.
And with the Leaf only becoming available in March and subject to a waiting list, the most influential electric car of the year would not have made its mark on electric car sales figures, or the uptake of the Plug-In Car Grant.
Is £5,000 subsidy enough?
While the Leaf may be the biggest lifeline the grant has, it still might not be its saviour because the general public still has serious anxieties when it comes to electric cars.
The manufacturer’s ambitious range claims are still far from impressive. And the fact that an electric car costs, on average, a third more than a similarly-sized petrol or diesel powered car is another huge detrimental element to EV ownership.
The Leaf, for example, costs a massive £30,990. A £5,000 saving still isn’t going to bring it in line with a new Ford Focus or Honda Civic, which are both capable of clearing over 400-miles on a single tank of fuel for well under £20k.
So I have to wonder whether a £5,000 subsidy is enough – why doesn’t the government increase the offering if the uptake remains low in the first half of the year? Would a bigger subsidy tempt you, or do you still have too many concerns about EV ownership?