Rob Steadman explores whether the DFT’s attempts to roll out the electric car in 2011 are having any effect.
With the UK Government’s continuing efforts to reduce CO2 levels, in January the Department for Transport (DFT) started offering generous grants of up to £5,000 towards plug-in cars. This was in the hope that 2011 would become, “the year of the electric car for the UK”.
Despite this subsidy, sales of the electric car in the UK have failed to take off.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), sales of the electric car were down, with only 106 sold in the third quarter of 2011. This is a steady decline from the 465 in the first quarter and 215 in the second.
The DFT has budgeted £400 million towards its efforts to roll-out the electric car, (running until March 2012) pledging, “Approximately £80 million supporting research and development activities; £20 million for the installation of suitable infrastructure”.
This negative news contrasts with reports from across the Atlantic. Studies from the University of California have predicted sales of the electric car in the US skyrocketing, accounting for 60% of the market by 2030.
The recent release of the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car, detailing Telsa’s (amongst others) production of the electric car suggested a change in thinking. Current market reports suggest ‘the revenge’ is going to be lucrative. Thompson Reuters indicate impressive stock growth for Tesla Motor, assessing the company’s current revenue to be $3billion – “more than five times its predicted figure” – with its share price predicted to quadruple by 2025.
The UK seems to be stalling on take-off; historically, green campaign groups have argued a lack of suitable infrastructure, whereas the DFT argued a lack of suitable cars to spark the public’s desire. Business Minister Mark Prisk said, “The UK wants to be a world-leader in ultra-low carbon technology and today’s strategy is the next step in our achievement of that aim”.
Despite Prisk’s statement, the UK contrasts with a seemingly impressive growth in a competitive US market, with the UK market lagging behind. But Transport Minister Norman Baker is optimistic saying, “It is the availability of qualifying cars, rather than the public appetite for them that is the main challenge we face in developing the electric car market. I have every confidence that that will change in the next few months and we will begin to see sales of ultra-low carbon cars improve”.