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Inside view: Mandy money

  • Electric grants don't add up
  • Not enough charging points
  • Just 3000 points budgeted for
Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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What Car? Associate Editor Roger Stansfield takes a closer look at last week's Government announcement to give grants to buy electric cars.

The Government is to make 250 million available to encourage sales of electric vehicles from 2011 but will it really get us plugging in instead of filling up?

Outwardly, it all makes sense. By 2011, proper, safe electric cars will be around in worthwhile numbers, so why not offer people incentives to buy one?

The scheme, announced by Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, also includes 20 million to be invested in additional public charging points. Even more reason to go electric, right?

Take a closer look
Scratch at the surface, however, and you'll soon see that there's little substance to Mandelson's announcement: no solid idea of how it's all going to work; no real feeling that the Government has even done its maths properly.

Take that 250 million, which is to be doled out in grants of up to 5000, it could result in upwards of 50,000 motorists going electric. Yet with charging points costing 7000 apiece (according to energy supplier EDF, which is working with one of the main installers, Elektromotive) Mandy's 20 million will pay for only 3000 on-street sockets.

Range anxiety is among the main concerns of people who have considered buying electric cars. 'Will the car run out of electricity before I get home?'

So is cost battery packs alone are likely to be priced at far more than the maximum 5000 the Government is offering.

Finally, there's the distribution of the recharging infrastructure. Electric cars work best for short journeys in cities, where many people live in apartments - but how are high-rise residents going to recharge an electric car?

A pale shade of green
There's one other important point. Private cars accounted for just 11% of the UK's CO2 emissions in 2008, while energy creation which includes generating the electricity for these new green cars was responsible for more than 30%.

Yet again it's the car driver who is to bear the brunt of the CO2 clean-up.