Who Does The Electric Eco Car Future Belong To?

Who Does The Electric Eco Car Future Belong To?

Mayor Boris Johnson had pledged to install 22,500 electric car charging points across London, with 7,500 in place by 2013 of which 6,000 were to be installed at work places, 500 on the streets, 330 in public car parks, 50 at Tube stations, 140 in supermarket car parks and 120 at car clubs.  This £60 million scheme was intended to make London the “Electric Car Capital of Europe” , but, following the Spending Review,  the mayor’s earlier pledge of £20 million funding has now been cut back to just £7 million.  Boris also promised that no Londoner would be more than a mile from a charging point.  At present there are only around 250 charging points in London with just over half of them funded by Transport for London (TfL), to service the capital’s 1,700 electric vehicles currently registered.

There’s no doubt that the specification of Electric Vehicles (EV’s) is improving all the time.  Ranges are steadily being extended and their performance is getting closer to regular cars.  The various technologies are still sparring for dominance and projected retail prices seem to be relatively high (£30,000 is suggested for a Plug in Prius for example).  That’s reflected in sales of new electric cars in the UK, which plummeted by nearly 90% in 2009 compared with their peak in 2007, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.  Nearly half of the electric vehicles sold last year were the tiny G-Wiz, which is ineligible for a government grant scheme thanks to its low speed and limited range.

In January 2011, a grant of up to £5,000 towards the price of a series of newly launched electric cars could be available.  This subsidy was the brainchild of the former Labour government and the Department for Transport (DfT) anticipates around 8,600 of the cars will be sold in the first year of the scheme. So far, £43 million has been committed to the scheme that will run until March 2012, with a review taking place in January 2012.   There are suggestions that the subsidy will continue after March 2012, albeit at a lower rate.  New  EV models  that may benefit from the grant could include the £28,900 four-seater Mitsubishi iMiEV, the as yet unpriced Norwegian-made Th!nk City and the £28,350 Nissan Leaf, which has received some pretty good reviews and will be built in Sunderland from 2013.

So until the subsidy has been confirmed and the various technologies settle down, you might be best advised looking at contract hire for an electric vehicle rather than parting with your hard earned cash outright.  Some leading luxury marques are plugging into the electric bandwagon.  Audi contract hire on something like the all-electric Audi A1 premium compact hatchback may be a better bet for the time being.  20 of these beasts will be on trial in Munich by mid 2011 supported by 200 ‘electric filling stations’.  Capable of a top speed of 81 mph thanks to a hefty under floor lithium-ion battery pack, the electric A1 Audi also uses a small, single-rotor Wankel engine as a “range extender” to produce an extra 15 kW of charging power. Audi reckon that will deliver ‘fuel economy’ equivalent to 148.7 mpg.

BMW too has ripped the petrol-guzzling heart from the Mini and replaced it with batteries and an electric motor.  Prices for final retail models of the Mini E remain unconfirmed, so BMW contract hire may be the more judicious approach here too.   The Mini E manages to deliver an impressive performance (thanks to an enormous battery pack) to reach a top speed of 95 mph and a whopping 155-mile range, but the size of the battery pack needed for this means you can only carry one passenger, so not too sure how that one will go.

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