MPs criticise government plug-in vehicle strategy

Transport Select Committee publishes report recommending ways to boost uptake and reduce emissions, writes Caelia Quinault

Consumer demand for plug-in vehicles remains very low and the government grant to encourage uptake may not be proving effective, according to a group of MPs.

The Transport Select Committee — which scrutinises government transport policy —published a new report yesterday (September 20) on the government’s plug-in strategy which recommends key ways in which it believes policy could be improved.

The strategy to promote plug-in vehicles may not drive widespread uptake, say MPs

Plug-in vehicles are seen as an important tool for improving air quality as they are powered by electricity rather than fuels such as diesel, which gives off emissions which have been linked to cancer.

The term ‘plug-in vehicle’ is used in the report to describe a wide variety of different technologies including battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and extended-range electric vehicles (E-REV).

The government’s plug-in-car grant allows motorists purchasing a qualifying ‘ultra-low emission’ car to receive a grant of 25% towards the cost of the vehicle, up to a maximum of £5,000.

Launching the report, committee chair Louise Ellman MP warned that it was important to get the strategy for plug in vehicles right in order to reduce transport emissions.

She said: “The Government must do more to show that its plug-in vehicle strategy is a good use of public money. Carbon emissions from transport must be reduced if the UK is to meet its climate change targets, but public money must be targeted on effective policies.

“So far, Department for Transport expenditure on plug-in cars — some £11 million — has benefited just a handful of motorists. 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.

Ms Ellman said it was also unclear whether the provision of public charging infrastructure encourages demand for plug-in cars and criticised the government for not having a register of all the chargepoints installed “at public expense”.

She said: “Ministers should not sit back and hope that the Government’s policy on plug-in cars will reduce transport carbon emissions. Far more work is required to ensure that this programme is a good use of public funds.”

The Committee’s full list of recommendations are:

  • The Department for Transport should clarify the reasons for the under spend in its low carbon vehicle programme;
  • As part of the next spending review, the Government should set milestones for the numbers of plug-in cars it expects to see on the roads so that the success of its low carbon vehicles strategy can be assessed within that spending review period;
  • The DfT should evaluate how effectively the provision of public infrastructure is encouraging consumer demand for plug-in vehicles;
  • Making sure that vehicle owners can access chargepoints across the UK should be a priority within the DfT’s plug-in vehicle strategy.  The DfT should also set out how it will work to remove barriers to chargepoint access across the country;
  • An accurate and comprehensive registry of chargepoints installed by the Plugged-In Places scheme should be made available within the next six months.  Publication of a full registry should encourage private chargepoint providers to upload their data for public use. It should be made a requirement of Plugged-In Places funding that location details for chargepoints installed using this funding are uploaded to the National Chargepoint Registry;
  • Plugged-In Places funding should include provision for measures to promote public awareness of the charging infrastructure and the plug-in vehicles grant;
  • The DfT should set out how it intends to reach agreement in the EU on the type of infrastructure to be used as standard for plug-in vehicles;
  • The Government must avoid creating instability in the plug-in vehicle market through a lack of consistency between departments in their approaches to financial incentives for these vehicles and adopt a more coordinated approach to such incentives across Whitehall.

Related Links
Plug-in vehicle report 



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11 years ago

If they really want to cut air pollution, it would be far better ditch plug-in vehicles and invest in a modal shift to active travel instead. There is already interest in this and it would have added health and economic benefits to boot.

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