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Electric car grant doesn't shock Scots

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Doubts about green technology in cars have surfaced in Scotland after less than 700 people have taken advantage of a Government grant which was put in place to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles.

During the months of April and June, 215 of the vehicles were purchased through the government scheme, which offered motorists £5000 towards the price. That takes the total number of units of the ‘ultra-low emissions’ vehicles sold in Scotland to 680 since January 1 according to Government figures.

The lack of interest has once again raised questions as to whether the technology will solve the problem of rising carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector. Reports suggest that consumers are wary about the technology due to high purchase costs, lack of charging infrastructure and “range anxiety”.

However, Chargemaster, a company specialising in electric vehicles, has vowed to provide 4000 charging points across the UK by the end of 2012 in the hope of raising interest in the waning technology.

Suggestions that the Governments faith in the technology is being tested were apparent earlier in the month as plans to install 9000 public charging units for electric vehicles across the UK were abandoned. The standpoint from the Government is that the infrastructure would be expensive and potentially under-utilised as most motorists would charge their vehicles at home or at work.

There are currently only five cars that qualify for the Government grant for vehicles emitting 75g of CO⊃; per km or less. Those five cars are all electric, but the grant scheme does potentially allow for plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-fuelled cars to qualify.

The cheapest of the five electric motors, according to the Department for Transport, is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The i-MiEV will still put a dent in most motorist’s wallets though, weighing in at £23,990. Reports suggest that a further five ultra-low emission vehicles are due to reach the market by early next year, three of which are hybrids.

Including the 680 cars purchased under the scheme, out of a fleet of 28million cars in the UK, only 2500 registered are electric cars.

The RAC Foundation, which highlighted the figures yesterday, said there was still a “mountain” to climb in order to make road transport green.

Experts in motoring believe that although the vehicles require fuel with lower costs, the high purchase price of the vehicles mean it will take owners several years to reap the financial benefits of not choosing petrol or diesel vehicles. They are also calling for the UK Government to consider offering greater support for hybrid vehicles, of which there are 81,000 registered in the UK.

In Scotland, Government agency Transport Scotland is working on plans to install 375 public charging points across central Scotland, targeting commuter journeys between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Research from Japan and the United States has shown that around 80% of charging takes place at home or work. However separate research has raised doubts about the potential of home charging in Scotlands biggest cities due to the lack of low level of off-street parking.

By Ben Malkin

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