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Criticism over changes to plug-in car grant

Monday, May 13, 2019 - 09:24
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Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mike Hawes

The Government is being urged to increase financial support for the uptake of green vehicles – despite a rise in the number of new ultra-low and zero emission vehicles registered in the opening third of 2019.

Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on 7 May show that 51,091 alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were registered for the first time between January and April – a year-on-year rise of 14%.

During that period, AFVs accounted for 5.9% of all new registrations – up by 0.9% from the same period in 2018.

However, despite what appears to be a positive picture, the SMMT has criticised the Government for changes made to the plug-in car grant scheme.

The changes, announced in October 2018, mean the grant for Category 1 vehicles – broadly those that are pure battery electric – has been reduced from £4,500 to £3,500.

In addition, Category 2 and 3 vehicles – mainly plug-in hybrids – are no longer eligible for a grant.

The number of new ‘zero emission-capable’ plug-in hybrids registered between January and May fell by 20% compared to the same period in 2018 – and the SMMT says this proves that the Government ‘prematurely removed upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready’.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “While it’s great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero.

“Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need.

“We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers. This includes investment in infrastructure and long term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible.”

Close to the ‘tipping point’

The rise in AFVs comes – once again – against a decline in the overall new vehicle market.

The SMMT figures show that 862,100 new vehicles were registered in the first third on 2019 – a year-on-year decline of 2.7%.

The RAC says electric vehicles are becoming ‘a wise option for many drivers’.

Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: “We are getting close to a tipping point where buying an electric vehicle is an increasingly credible option for many.

“The factors that influence choice are beginning to line up to make an electric vehicle a wise option for many drivers including: a greater, more diverse range of vehicles; significantly improved battery range; and an improving charging infrastructure.

“Ultimately price is the biggest sticking point although prices will begin to fall as demand grows.”