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Electric Car Revolution Fails To Take Off In UK

David Gilbert by

Electric Car Revolution Fails To Take Off In UK

The electric car revolution that environmentalists will have hoped for seems to be stalling with one major problem – no one seems interested in buying one.

The government set up a £5,000 electric car grant scheme on 1 January this year and experts hailed 2011 as a “breakthrough year” for the cars as mass-market manufacturers roll out new models. However a parliamentary question this week has revealed that only 534 cars have been registered for the scheme with only 213 of these cars actually on the road. Hardly the explosion of electric vehicles the government would have been hoping for, but considering the extra expense it’s hardly surprising. The scheme has been budgeted for up to 8,600 cars throughout the year but with a paltry take-up of the scheme so far, we may see the scheme continue into next year and beyond.

Electric cars are typically one third more expensive than their petrol alternatives with the two highest profile models, the Nissan Leaf (seen above) and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, both costing £28,000. Those promoting the benefits of electric cars claim that electric vehicles can be run for 2p a mile compared to 14p a mile for petrol vehicles. While the Leaf has won plaudits around the globe and had pre-orders of 20,000 units it seems as if in general Britons haven’t embraced this new technology – yet. However if we look back a couple of years when only 55 fully electric vehicles were sold in 2009, it is a significant if not meteoric increase.

Experts still believe that the grant will be a success as all nine of the qualifying models become available including the highly popular fully-electric version of Toyota’s Prius. Do you think the expected electric vehicle revolution will take off or will people be unwilling to spend the money on the new technology?

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April 29, 2011, 4:00 pm

2011 the breakthrough year?

give over

We'll have a break through year with these things when theres an actual technological break through that enables them to work properly.

So far these cars are just about good enough for doing a couple of runs around town. The LEAF has a 80 ish mile range... what happens when its night and its raining and your freezing your face off? it'll be more like 40 miles or less. The technology just isnt ready to take on the ICE just yet and £25k is a lot to pay for what will have to be a second car for most people. Unless you're a masochist and love using the over priced, over crowded, perennially late trains in this country.


April 29, 2011, 5:34 pm

is it any wonder they're overpriced crap who wants a car that can only do 40-100 miles on a charge my trips to weymouth from south london would take 2 days of travelling for a 6 hour visit dohhh alright you say they're city cars but most homeowners in cities dont have safe secure parking areas to recharge and the local authorities i'm sure would object too cables trailing across footpaths. also emission free what about the great big power station that supplies electricity that is coal/oil powered and is the most polluting plant on the planet.
534 cars registered only 213 used thats because they're out of juice in the middle of nowhere.
the only viable emission free vehicles will be the hydrogen fusion electric (honda fcx clarity on trial in california and various concept vehicles from most other manufacturers) but that has infrastructure issues in that petrol stations need to have hydrogen pumps installed.(Although i did think perhaps some sort of hot swappable hydrogen cartridge would be an option then people could have these delivered by boc/calor a bit like camping gas wher you rent the bottle and pay for the gas-probably a bit too simplistic.)
chevrolet have the "best option " available to the consumer currently in the usa and in the uk from 2012 in the volt model which is a full electric vehicle that can be charged as normal and does about 50 miles on a charge ideal for pottering about but the ace up its tailpipe is it has a petrol generator on board which for a few litres of petrol provides enough electricity for 300 miles of driving brilliant still damned expensive but has received the £5000 government grant qualification and qualifies for zero road tax (at the moment but there is stil time for the cleggeron group to screw that up) for me this is the type of vehicle that should be being developed as the interim change to full emission zero transport. All this is moot as since fuel costs and transport taxes have skyrocketed most of the manufacturers have redesigned the good old petrol engine and there are now a large number of low emission zero taxable low consumption cars available for reasonable prices that can still do the motorway run in comfort , my 2008 1.5 does nearly 60 mpg on a motorway and there are others doing 70-80mpg so all the time we have these affordable options why change?


April 29, 2011, 6:38 pm

Why bother when you can get a normal car which gets 70mpg plus for much much less...


April 29, 2011, 9:32 pm

The Government have no interest in these cars being successful, just think of the amount of tax they will lose out on... it's not me being skeptical, its the simple facts.

£5000 sounds like a lot of money, but in reality, its not going to convince people (and I bet some civil servant worked that number out specifically) to part with the remaining £23000 considering the draw backs for a short range vehicle that will need its batteries changed after so many years.

I say this, when I am all in favor of the move to electric vehicles and moves towards a sustainable future. I work in environmental consultancy and look at the reality i.e. the advantages and disadvantages of new products.

There are other issues that Government will be considering, including the political power, around the world, that buying fossil fuels brings them and the implications of all the extra electricity that will be needed. Just look at the government recent statement that the EU goal of no petrol/diesel cars in cities by 2050 will not even be considered... 2050.

Until people's fears are alleviated with buying into new technology, the range of the car increases, the government knocks £8,000 - £10,000 off the price and pushes more charging points into service stations/garages/businesses, etc - then in reality it is going to take a very long time for electric cars to start penetrating the market and that's assuming car manufacturer's don't back off after these disappointing sales figures.

I am just about to buy a diesel 74mpg (combined) ford focus costing £12,000 because I do a lot of driving. However when my wifes car needs replacing, then we will be considering the electric cars, as she only makes short journeys.


May 3, 2011, 1:07 pm


I'm in agreement that currently, electric cars don't add up for the average consumer, but your skepticism has obscured reality.

The government wants folk to switch to electric. The subsidies are their to give help get things off the ground. Of course, once these cars are sold in volume and the technology continues to improve, the prices to the public will come down, and then, rather than subsidise usage of them, any wise government would gradually switch to taxing them, just as they do with regular petrol cars. They won't lose tax revenue at all. Rather, it will simply be the source of that revenue that changes.

People will start buying electric cars in volume once they offer the same _functionality_ as petrol cars, irrespective of price. Price differences can be dealt with through marketing and subsidies.

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