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Explained: What is the government plug-in car grant?

The UK Government offers you a grant of up to £3,500 to buy an electric car; here’s what you need to know about it

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The government wants only cars that are “effectively zero emissions” being sold in the UK by 2040, and is under pressure from environmental groups to bring that date forward. As a result, ultra-low emission zones are starting to pop up in cities as local authorities try to tackle air pollution, and electric vehicles are considered the way forward in achieving this.

However, the buying public has been slow to embrace EVs, with legitimate concerns about range and recharging, and less legitimate worries about stuff like whether you can drive them in the rain (Yes, of course you can).

To encourage motorists into zero-emission cars, the government offers a plug-in car grant to make EVs more affordable. How do you take advantage of this discount? Read on…

What types of vehicle are eligible for the plug-in car grant?

The plug-in grant doesn’t just apply to cars, it’s also applicable for vans, motorcycles, mopeds and taxis, so long as their official emissions figures fall under the amounts specified in the legislation.

The grant has been running since 2011, but the criteria were toughened up in October 2018 (and the maximum grant amounts reduced) in response to the continued reduction in the cost of electric vehicle technology. The stricter new requirements meant dozens of plug-in hybrid cars that had previously been eligible for the grant were now excluded – effectively making those cars £4,500 dearer overnight.

The Jaguar I-Pace is eligible for the plug-in car grant | The Car Expert
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace is eligible for the government plug-in car grant

What are the categories?

The criteria required for a vehicle to be eligible for the grant is different depending on the type of vehicle. For cars and taxis, they must emit less than 50g/km of CO2 and be able to travel at least 70 miles without any emissions at all (according to the official EU tests).

Motorcycles must produce zero tailpipe emissions and be able to travel at least 31 miles between charges. Mopeds can’t have any emissions either, but only have to travel at least 19 miles on a charge. Finally, vans must have CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and travel at least 10 miles between charges.

How much can I save?

Again, this depends on the category. Car buyers can save 35% of the vehicle’s value up to a maximum of £3,500 (prior to October 2018 the maximum was £4,500). Motorcycle and moped buyers can get 20%, up to a maximum of £1,500.

The biggest potential savings are for van and taxi drivers, who can save 20% of the vehicle’s value up to £8,000 and £7,500 respectively.

The Volkswagen e-Crafter van is eligible for the plug-in car grant | The Car Expert
Electric vans like the Volkswagen e-Crafter are also eligible for the plug-in grant

Which cars are eligible for the plug-in car grant?

As of June 2019, there are 24 cars, 13 motorcycles, 16 mopeds, 11 vans and one taxi currently eligible for the grant. The full list is available on the government’s website.

There are a wide variety of cars available, ranging from relatively inexpensive superminis like the Renault Zoe and Smart EQ Fortwo, up to more premium options such as the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model S.

In the taxi category, the only eligible option is the LEVC TX, which is the latest generation of London black cab and is a type of hybrid known as a ‘range extender’. Its wheels are driven by an electric motor and it can be plugged into a socket to charge its battery, but it also has a petrol engine acting as a generator to recharge the batteries when necessary.

What do I need to do to get it?

Absolutely nothing. The beauty of the plug-in car grant is that there’s no onus on you to fill out forms or chase rebates – the grant is automatically applied to the cost of the car and the government reimburses the dealer or manufacturer you’ve bought the car from.

Nissan Leaf on the road | The Car Expert

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Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.