Plug-in car grant questioned

* 5000 car grant under threat? * Only 1700 cars registered through scheme * Committee asks if grant is value for money...

Plug-in car grant questioned

The Government's plug-in car grant has been called into question in a report by the Transport Select Committee amid concerns that only wealthy people are benefiting from the incentive.

The report 'Plug-in vehicles, plugged in policy? questions whether the 5000 grants are a good use of public money. So far, the Department for Transport has spent 11 million on its plug-in cars scheme, although only around 1700 people have bought one.

In 2011, 1052 electric vehicles eligible for the plug-in car grant were registered, compared with 111 in 2010.

Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said: 'We were warned of the risk that the Government is subsidising second cars for affluent households; currently plug-in cars are mostly being purchased as second cars for town driving.'

She said it is also unclear whether public charging points encourage demand for electric cars.

Defending the expenditure, Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: 'The Government's role has been essential... Without the public involvement, we would not see a market beginning to develop.'

The report calls for a review of the Government's plug-in cars policy. In particular, it wants to know why there is a 19 million under-spend on the low- carbon-vehicle programme; how effective public infrastructure is in stimulating consumer demand; and how the Government intends to agree a EU-standard for charging infrastructure.

It also wants ministers to publish a National Chargepoint Registry, listing all the chargepoints installed by the Plugged-In Places scheme. The next spending review should also include milestone targets for the number of plug-in cars Government expects to see on the roads. A co-ordinated approach to financial incentives for electric cars should be implemented, too.

The report was published a day after the What Car? Green Car of the Year Awards, in which the Chevrolet Volt range-extender won The Alternative-Fuel Car category, with the Renault Twizy and Vauxhall Ampera as runners-up.