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MPs report: Electric car grants failing to boost demand

The UK’s Plugged in Car Grant may be proving ineffective in boosting demand for plug-in cars, as consumer demand remains very low, a new report suggests. New evidence gathered by the Transport Select Committee and published the report ‘Plug in vehicles, plugged in policy?’ examines the Government strategy for bolstering demand for ultra low carbon cars and expresses concern that grants are benefitting only a handful of well-off motorists.Plug-in cars, like the Toyota Prius Plug-in are eligible for consumer grants and can make use of Government-funded charging posts So far, the Government has spent some £11 million on schemes to boost electric cars including the Plug-in Car Grant and Plugged in Places schemes, yet evidence suggests that plug-in cars are mostly being bought as second cars for town driving by affluent households. The Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) itself has so far subsidised the purchase of more than 1700 cars since its launch in January 2011. Offering consumers a subsidy of 25 per cent of the cost of a plug-in car, capped at £5,000, the launch of the PiCG saw 1,052 plug in cars bought in the year to January 2012, compared to just 111 in 2011. Since the Plugged in Places schemes were launched, some 1,600 charging posts have been installed around the country. ‘Unclear’ effect on EV demand Louise Ellman MP, Committee Chair, warns: “The Government must do more to show that its plug-in vehicle strategy is a good use of public money. Carbon emissions from transport must be reduced if the UK is to meet its climate change targets, but public money must be targeted on effective policies. She also expressed concern for the Government’s strategy towards installing EV infrastructure. Ellman added: “It is also unclear whether the provision of public charging infrastructure encourages demand for plug-in cars. Indeed, the Government does not even have a register of all the charge points installed at public expense. “Ministers should not sit back and hope that the Government’s policy on plug-in cars will reduce transport carbon emissions. Far more work is required to ensure that this programme is a good use of public funds.” The committee recommends a number of measures to ensure a more effective policy including that the Department for Transport (DfT) should clarify the reasons for the under spend in its low carbon vehicle programme and should set milestones  for the numbers of plug-in cars it expects to see on the roads within each spending review period. It is also recommended that the DfT evaluate how effectively the provision of public infrastructure is encouraging consumer demand for plug-in vehicles and make access to charge points a priority for electric car owners. Finally the committee recommends that an accurate and comprehensive registry of charge points installed by the Plugged-In Places scheme is made available within the next six months and published on the National Chargepoint Registry.

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Faye Sunderland

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