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Anger as Government slashes plug-in car grants

Only pure electric vehicles will get grant, and that's cut by £1,000.

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Government moves to abolish grants for plug-in hybrid cars have been slammed across the UK automotive industry.

From next month, new plug-in hybrid cars will no longer qualify for any form of Government assistance, instantly adding £2,500 to the cost of such vehicles.

Only vehicles that can travel more than 70 miles on electric power alone – which are essentially only pure EVs – will continue to receive grants. But these are being cut from £4,500 to £3,500, due to what the Government describes as “recent reductions in the price of electric vehicles.”

Grants have been available to encourage the purchase of ultra low-emission vehicles since 2011, and the Government claims it has helped support the purchase of more than 160,000 such vehicles in the period since.

35,000 more grants

Adding that such measures had been out in place to establish the market, the Government says that it will now focus its aid on zero-emission vehicles. The next 35,000 electric cars will receive grants but what happens beyond that is not currently being revealed.

Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid charging point
Plug-in models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTE will see their grants disappear..

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) led the criticism, arguing that the move would have far-reaching consequences for consumers, the environment and industry.

“Reducing the purchase incentives for zero-emission cars by a third and completely removing the grant for plug-in hybrids is totally at odds with Government ambition to be the world leader in the take up of ultra-low emission vehicles announced in its Road to Zero Strategy,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“It also sends yet more confusing signals to consumers and will make it virtually impossible for Government and industry to meet their CO2 reduction targets,” he added.

Short notice will hit industry

Hawes also argued that the very short notice of only one month before the new measures come into force will further distort a UK car market already impacted by previous conflicting government policies, and will put even greater pressure on industry.

Mitsubishi, which has seen the plug-in hybrid version of its Outlander SUV become the brand’s Uk best seller, described the decision as extremely disappointing.

1808 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV The Car Expert
Plug-in hybrid version of Mitsubishi Outlander has become a brand best-seller.

“(It) is completely at odds with the Government’s stated objective of making the UK a world leader in green mobility in the future,” said Rob Lindley, Managing Director at Mitsubishi Motors in the UK.

“As motorists seek a low-emission, fuel-efficient alternative to diesel vehicles, now should be the ideal time for the Government to incentivise plug-in hybrid technology, not pull its support,” he added.

“Such technology forms the perfect segue between conventional petrol and diesel powered and full electric vehicles, particularly as the charging network is nowhere near evolved enough to support widespread full EV use.”

British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association Chief Executive Gerry Keaney described the decision as: “unbelievably short-sighted,” adding that it would “only serve to stifle the uptake of electric vehicles.”

The choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars has grown significantly since this 2016 picture – but the latest moves will not help achieve the Government’s bold ambitions for EV take-up.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.