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UK electric car funding - another subsidy for the RICH, say MPs

Squeezed middle pay for poshos' plug-in freebie towncars

The £11m of public money used to promote electric vehicles is mostly just helping rich Brits buy a second car, a group of MPs said.

The Transport Select Committee has published a report questioning the value of spending millions trying to get electric cars on the road, claiming the money is only benefitting 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," committee chair and Labour MP Louise Ellman said.

The committee also accused the government of shoddy record-keeping when it comes to the electric car pot, saying there was no list of chargepoints installed at the public's expense and anyway no-one knows if the plug-in points encourage electric car sales or not.

"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," Ellman said.

The scheme offers grants of up to £5,000 to people willing to switch to plug-in vehicles and has set up a network of chargepoints to help electric motorists. The government was hoping to get tens of thousands of the cars on the road by 2015, but the committee found that only 1,052 eligible cars were registered since the programme started in January 2011.

The committee urged the government to sort out the scheme in its report and make sure that a public registry of chargepoints be created with the next six months so folks know where to go and private companies can add their data.

"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 plug-in vehicles and adopt a more coordinated approach to these incentives across Whitehall," it said.

"We recommend that as part of the next spending review, the Government 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."

Plug-in cars don't just benefit from direct government purchase subsidy: their generally wealthy owners also avoid many governmental charges and levies as paid by ordinary motorists. These include vehicle excise duty (road tax), parking fees, congestion charging and the swingeing taxes on motor fuel. ®

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