Thursday, 16 April 2009

Electric car proposals unveiled

The UK government has published its strategy for promoting 'ultra-low carbon vehicles' - meaning all-electrics and hybrids, though obviously their 'low-carbon' nature depends on the source of their electricity - as part of its low carbon industrial strategy. It's being promoted as a £250m, five-year strategy, adding (limited) detail to the previously announced plan.

The headline initiative, which will account for most of the £250m figure, is subsidies of £2,000-5,000 for buyers of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. The subsidies will be made available as eligible cars hit the showrooms around 2011. The early state of the technology and lack of manufacturing scale means that first models likely to be around double the price of a petrol or diesel equivalent, so the announced subsidy is unlikely to make up the whole difference.

The plan also offers £20m to help set up networks of charging points and other infrastructure. That's not a huge amount given that, for example, Better Place Denmark in investing Euro103m in the initial deployment of their charging network in a country with a tenth of the population. The UK plans are just aimed at a handful or urban demonstration projects, giving around 200 motorists 'the opportunity to drive a cutting-edge car and feedback the information needed to make greener motoring an everyday reality'.

The Guardian has a handy illustrated guide to the current generation of electric vehicles (I'm still waiting for my Tesla test drive). Most only really make sense in an urban environment, where the vast bulk journeys will comfortably fit within a battery charge. And generation considerations aside, cities can also get big health advantages by cutting exhaust pollution.

Last week, the London's mayor outlined plans to promote electric car use in the capital. Proposals include 25,000 charging points by 2015, at an estimated cost of £60m (mayor BoJo says his local government will contribute a third of this, with the rest from central government and the private sector).

Elsewhere, next week's budget is expected to announce a £2,000 subsidy for anyone trading in an old car for a new one. Admittedly that's more to do with helping ailing carmakers by stimulating demand for new cars, but it's profoundly detached from reality from an environmental viewpoint.

The government is targeting some £2.3bn support for the automotive industry during the current downturn. Much of this 'Auto Assistance Programme' is (at least nominally) intended to support green technology development.

For full details, see Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicles in the UK (pdf 1.8mb).

No comments: