Transport: £5,000 discounts for electric car-buyers

Government grants of up to £5,000 will be available from tomorrow for motorists buying electric or ultra-low emission cars.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has hailed the 43 million scheme as the start of "an exciting green revolution".

But most of the nine cars eligible for the grant will still cost well over 20,000, even taking into account the 5,000 discount.

And the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) has expressed concerns about whether the necessary infrastructure is in place for the scheme to succeed.

Also only three of the vehicles - the Mitsubishi iMiEV, the smart fortwo electric drive, and the Peugeot iON - are so far available.

The other six vehicles will be available from March to early 2012 and include the Vauxhall Ampera, which will cost more than 28,000 even taking account of the Government grant.

The other vehicles are the Citroen C-Zero, the Nissan Leaf, the Tata Vista EV, the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Chevrolet Volt. Further vehicles will become available next year.

London, north east England and Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire already have part-Government-funded electric car charging points. Under the Government scheme, five more regions are installing charging points - the Midlands, Greater Manchester, east of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Government grant is for up to a quarter of the cost of an electric car up to a maximum of 5,000. All those purchasing these vehicles will be exempt from vehicle excise duty car tax.

Announcing the eligible vehicles this month, Mr Hammond said: "A few years ago, ultra-low emission cars with mass market appeal appeared just a pipe dream. Now they are a reality and we can have all the convenience of the car without all the carbon that normally goes with it.

"Government action to support affordable vehicles and more local charging points means we are on the threshold of an exciting green revolution - 2011 could be remembered as the year the electric car took off.

"The British public has in the past shown it's ready to embrace new technology and take practical steps to adopt a lifestyle kinder to the environment, so we could really be at the start of something big."

Steve Bratt, group chief executive of the ECA, welcomed the grant but said: "For EVs (electric vehicles) to be truly successful, we must first make sure we have the infrastructure in place.

"This means having enough charging points throughout the country, all with a common installation standard, to ensure that they work properly."

He went on: "If this initiative is successful, and the number of EVs on the road does increase significantly, it will be vital that the

National Grid can cope. As without the correct infrastructure, the public could be left stranded as their car runs out of electricity.

"Before the Government takes steps to incentivise the purchase of electric cars, it first needs to address the issues which stand in the way of their future success. If we're not careful, we could see a rerun of battery cars, which became an object of media and popular ridicule during the 1980s."

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