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British EV initiative

Electric dreamers: British government ministers Peter Mandelson (left) and Geoff Hoon announce their new electric vehicle initiative in Scotland.

Government to give buyers up to $10,000 to buy an electric car from 2011

General News logo20 Apr 2009

By DAVID HASSALL

THE British government last week announced a new £250 million ($A514 million) program to encourage the sale of electric cars (EV) from 2011.

Motorists will save between £2000 and £5000 ($A4110 to $A10,270) when they buy an EV as a result of the initiative, which was announced by business secretary Peter Mandelson and transport secretary Geoff Hoon.

The payment applies to EVs that “meet modern safety standards and have a range and top speed sufficient to give mass market appeal”, which appears likely to exclude the six vehicles currently available in the UK from niche car-makers.

The government package also includes £20 million ($A41.1 million) for charging points and related infrastructure.

The package has attracted plenty of criticism in the UK, where many commentators described it as a gimmick while some industry representatives said it was a lower priority than the need to do something to boost new-car sales in the short term.

Mr Hoon said that, with less than 0.1 per cent of the UK’s 26 million vehicles being electric, there is “a huge untapped potential” to reduce carbon emissions by promoting the roll-out of EVs.

“The scale of incentives we're announcing today will mean that an electric car is a real option for motorists as well as helping to make the UK a world leader in low carbon transport,” said Mr Hoon.

80 center imageLord Mandelson repeated the government’s claim to be leading the world in setting ambitious carbon reduction targets and said that road vehicles was a big part of the program, despite the fact that transport accounts for only 19 per cent of emissions.

“Low carbon vehicles will play a key role in cutting emissions (and) government must act now to ensure that the business benefits of this ambition are realised here in the UK,” said Lord Mandelson.

“We want the British motor industry to be a leader in the low carbon future, and government must direct and support this, through what I call new industrial activism.” The two ministers made their announcement at the Knockhill race circuit in Scotland, where they were chauffeured around in a British-built Mini E, 500 of which are being modified in Munich for field trials in Germany, the United States and the UK over the next 12 months before a decision is made on putting it into series production.

The two-seat Mini E produces 150kW of power and 220Nm of torque, and boasts 0-100km/h performance of 8.5 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 150km/h. It is recharged in 4.0 hours from a normal power plug or 2.5 hours with a high-amperage ‘wallbox’ provided by BMW.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Paul Everitt welcomed the government initiative but said the immediate attention was still needed to ensure the future of the British car industry.

“Government has shown its commitment to developing a market for ultra-low carbon vehicles in the UK, but we must now ensure that UK design, R&D and manufacturing are at the heart of this growing industry,” said Mr Everitt.

“The motor industry is in the middle of its greatest economic challenge and immediate action to preserve the UK sector in the short-term is essential if we are to stake our claim in the global development of low carbon technology for the future.” The SMMT said the automotive sector is Europe’s largest investor in R&D and noted that the industry has greatly improved the environmental impact of car production while reducing emissions per vehicle by 45 per cent since 1999.

Dealer group RMIF (Retail Motor Industry Federation) used the opportunity to repeat calls for a scrappage scheme in the UK to boost sales immediately, saying it would also help to get high-polluting cars off the road.

In response to the government initiative, Smart pointed out that its ED was the top-selling electric car in the UK while start-up EV-maker evstores announced a plan to begin production of a city runabout at a new carbon-neutral assembly plant in London by the end of 2010.

The government’s announced investment in infrastructure was welcomed by Brighton-based company Elektromotive, which has installed about 160 recharge units around Britain since 2006, including 100 in the city of London.

The company claims its locally-produced Elektrobay is the world’s only fully-operational EV charging station and has been exported to Sweden, Holland, Germany and Ireland.

“The Government’s funding is a welcome step on the road towards emissions-free motoring and will help bring forward the creation of an EV charging network across the UK,” said Elektromotive managing director Calvey Taylor-Haw.

“It is essential the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support the proposed EV revolution, and we are uniquely ready and able to support the Government scheme.

“In the future we aim to have an Elektrobay on every street in the country.”

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