At a rather subdued Knockhill race-track in Scotland, UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and UK Transport Minister Geoff Hoon announced a plan to support Plug In vehicles, not only buying them but “Building them”.
Mr Hoon and Lord Mandelson also had the privaledge to take one of BMW’s Mini E around the Scottish track, publising the Government’s plans to offer a subsidy of between £2,000 and £5,000 to car owners wishing to buy a new EV or PHEV from 2011 onwards. The plan also includes a £20m kitty to pay for the installation of more charging points and infrastrucutre to help Brits go green. Mr Hoon said “”The scale of incentives we’re announcing today will mean that an electric car is a real option for motorists as well as helping to make the UK a world leader in low carbon transport.”
Photo by John Honniball
More thoughts on this news after the jump
The plans are a start to something big, but it was given a luke-warm reception by the mainstream press who of course included interviews with BMW’s UK director, who quite happily told the reporter of the issues that EVs have with range, battery performance and size. Of course, it may be a sound-bite gone wrong, but that’s hardly positive spin. The BBC also dealt with the obvious naysayers who spoke of the generation issues. (Check out my past blog busting the telegraph EV myths)
At the moment there’s not all that many choices for the UK EV owner. Many of my friends abroad tell me how good England has it, with at least four commercial choices for people wanting to own an EV. But at the moment we’re still waiting for a high-speed vehicle. The G-Wiz is the fastest commercial vehicle on the market (unless of course, you include the Tesla – which is out of all but the wealthiest pockets). And that’s the rub. Until the industry can produce faster, more mainstream-looking vehicles this government grant scheme won’t take off. Perhaps then, this is why the scheme isn’t set to launch until 2011. It will give the industry time to adjust. I’m assuming that the UK government will use the intervening time to help bring some EVs to the market which are fast, cool, and desirable. Oh, and the right price. The best we can hope for is that vehicles coming to the market in two years time (look to the iMiev, Smart ED and possibly Volt and Prius PHEV) will be close enough to a petrol-priced car that people will consider buying one. The £2,000 to £5,000 grant will at least help bridge the gap between a petrol car and a slightly more expensive plug in.
Why do I say more expensive? Well, at the moment it’s about economy of scale. The only way that EVs will get cheaper is if enough are built; if enough vehicles come off the production line. Of course, it’ll also help a great deal if Governmnents and private investors plough money in. These two things combined will really help us move forward. The UK Government’s plans will really help that. If the UK government offers tax breaks, insentives and assistance to EV and PHEV producing companies then perhaps we’ll have a chance to change the way people move around.
Many EV advocates view the move to Plug ins as a battle. I wouldn’t use quite that terminology, since I don’t believe that statement to be quite true. It’s not so much a battle as an evolution. I’m perfectly convinced that a plug in vehicle is an evolutionary step forwards. Bearing that in mind, I think that perhaps now we can evolve our transport a little quicker given this scheme.
The hope I have is that every major world goverment will see the same opourtinuty and pledge the same things that both the USA and now the UK have announced. Actions are louder than words of course, so it’ll be very interesting to see who follows through and who falls by the wayside. As someone who was convinced a long time ago that plug in vehicles were the way forward I can’t really tell you just how happy I am about the news. But I’m also wary. I’ve heard of all sorts of good thigns in the past. Good things which are now hollow promises and faint memories.
With the move towards plug ins getting another push today we just all have to keep spreading the word. If you own a plug in, make sure you tell your friends, family and colleagues how brilliant it is. Give as many people a chance to have a ride and have that EV grin. If you don’t already have a plug in then why not try and have a ride in one. Just don’t make it a small, pokey little one. Spread the word! And then maybe we’ll all be able to collect our new electric car in 2011.
For now though, there’s a lot of misinformation. There’s a lot of confusion. Even the mighty Times Newspaper got confused about electric cars, calling the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius Electric. They’re not. They’re hybrids. Without a plug, they’re just a regular gas-powered car with better gas mileage than most petrol vehicles. With a plug, they’re plug in hybrids, capable of very high efficiency and all-round-town electric-only mode. The plug makes a huge difference. With or without an engine too, a plug in vehicle is the one which will make waves in our future transport and help us get off the oil we’re so terribly addicted to. The plug is the thing which paves the way for a future transportation structure without petrol pumps, without dirty oil and perhaps without so many conflicts about dead animals… Without a Plug, you shouldn’t buy. As Plug in America put it:
“No Plug, No Deal!
I said it wasn’t a battle. But some of my friends would say that the battle is not yet won. And for once, I’d agree with them.