British consumers are to be offered incentives of up to £5,000 (US$7,470) to purchase an electric car under government plans that were to be announced yesterday. The plan is also expected to create electric car cities across the UK and launch large-scale experiments with ultra-green vehicles.
The proposals are part of a £250 million strategy to revolutionize Britain’s road transport network based on ultra-low carbon vehicles.
It was to be launched yesterday by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and Business Secretary Peter Mandelson.
Hoon said a day earlier that clean road transport would play a big role in helping Britain meet its targets of reducing emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
The focus of the strategy, in the first instance, would be on urban transport.
“Given that 60 percent of journeys by car are under 25 miles [40km], there’s no reason why someone using a car for commuting on a regular basis will not be able to charge up their car at home, take it to work and come home again well within the distance an electric vehicle should be able to travel,” Hoon said.
The cash incentive for consumers would be available to offset the higher up-front costs of electric cars — in particular the price of the batteries.
How the money would be distributed is yet to be decided, but Hoon said it would be available only to people buying cars that ran entirely or mostly on electricity. The scheme will become operational in 2011.
“What we’ve got to get people used to is the idea that electric cars will become quite normal,” Hoon said.
Part of the attempt to accustom people to electric cars will be to offer various models for the public to try out. The government’s strategy proposes £20 million to foster a core of cities and regions interested in developing an infrastructure to charge electric vehicles.
In addition, about 200 electric cars will be available in city centers for the public to try out.
Last week, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced his intention to make the capital a showcase for electric car technology by putting 100,000 electric cars on the roads.
Hoon said he was looking at ways of contributing to the mayor’s £60 million plan. The government aims to begin work on a national infrastructure but expects the private sector to take the lead in building the charging networks needed for mass adoption of electric vehicles.
Car manufacturers are a key part of the strategy: £100 million will be available for research to car makers.
“What we want to see is the UK firmly in the lead in the manufacturing sense,” Hoon said.