Blog: Dave LeggettUK incentives for EVs and plug-in hybrids

Dave Leggett | 17 April 2009

The UK government has certainly taken a step in the right direction with the incentives announced yesterday aimed at encouraging EVs and plug-in hybrids. But some of the spin and media gushing is getting on my nerves a bit.

Business minister Peter Mandelson talked yesterday about leading a 'green motoring revolution'. And some of the media coverage has implied that the motoring masses will be transferring to EVs/plug-in hybrids just as soon as they can.

EVs and plug-in hybrids are undoubtedly an important and evolving part of our automotive future, but they are coming up from a low base and the technology/battery issues and the underlying economics are far from solved.

The fossil fuel-burning ICE will still be the dominant automotive technology for a long time to come. Making them more efficient and getting more efficient usage patterns from the vehicle parc offer a potentially much bigger route to CO2 reductions from the transport sector.

And if you divide that GBP250m budget figure by the GBP5,000 subsidy for purchase you get 50,000 vehicles. No, that's not exactly a green revolution, though I do agree it's a positive step and to be welcomed. The government does certainly have a critical role to play in getting this nascent technology off the ground and high purchase price will likely be a problem area to begin with.

But let's get it in perspective.

Power generation and going nuclear is shaping up to be a bit complex and renewables are just a small part of the picture, so the net CO2 improvement from EV/hybrids take-up might not be anything like as big as implied (even if it helps our trade balance). That's all valid stuff for much political debate of course - ongoing over the next ten years.

A much more pressing short-term problem for the British government is the current state of the British economy and the position of major sectors - like automotive. Yesterday's PR splash does nothing to help the industry right now.

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