Electric cars are getting more popular

The surge in new registrations of electric cars continues unabated in the UK, with the website Next Green Car reporting an estimated 59,400 such cars registered by the end of 2015. This is a phenomenal increase on the mere 3,500 registrations of just three years ago.

With nearly 40 different models of electric car – or “plug-in” cars as they are also known – currently available in the UK, they represent about 1% of the total market.

Why go electric?

There are two principal, related reasons for buying an electric car:

  • they represent a greener, more sustainable alternative to conventional, petrol or diesel fuelled cars and have “zero emissions” over part of their range and noticeably lower carbon emissions for the remainder; and
  • in pursuit of green policy objectives, there are government grants available to provide an incentive for purchasing a wholly electric car or hybrid plug-in.

Plug-in car grant scheme

The government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles publishes the criteria which need to be met for a car to be eligible for a grant and these include:

  • all vehicles must produce less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every kilometre it is driven;
  • an electric car must have a driving range of at least 70 miles before its battery needs to be recharged;
  • hybrid electric cars must have an electrically driven range of at least 10 miles between charges;
  • vehicles are categorised into three classes, depending on their emissions and driving range;
  • all vehicles must be capable of reaching a speed of at least 60 mph; and
  • vehicles must meet certain battery, warranty and crash safety standards.

The scheme was first launched at the beginning of 2011, when the grant was intended to meet up to 25% of the cost of a new plug-in car, up to a maximum grant of £5,000.

The number of recharging points available to owners of electric cars has also been steadily increasing, with an estimated 10,500 publicly accessible charge points throughout the UK as of March 2016.

The steady increase in the fleet of electric cars on the nation’s roads has also prompted a growth in the number of insurance providers specialising in cover for this type of vehicle.

The future

Escalating sales of electric cars and the enthusiastic take-up of grants under this scheme has had one downside for consumers. Having kick-started the popularity of electric cars, the government has announced that it is now scaling back the plug-in car grant scheme.

With effect from the 1st of March 2016, only cars costing less than £60,000 will be eligible for the grant. The value of the grant is also being cut back, with a maximum of £4,500 available for the “greenest” of the three categories of vehicle, and £2,500 for the other two categories.

Naturally enough, given the government’s wish to maintain incentives for the purchase of more environmentally friendly vehicles, the swing is in favour of precisely these types of car. They tend to be the smaller, all-electric rather than hybrid vehicles, which have by far the lowest emissions.