In between all of the cuts the new government has been making (with the jury still out on Feed-In Tariffs), one promise which has survived is the £5,000 subsidy offered to buyers of electric vehicles, which was ratified in July last year and implemented in January this year. A list has been produced of all the eligible vehicles – noticeably absent is the Tesla Roadster, although even with a £5k discount this would be beyond the reaches of most!
So the government is directly pushing the purchase of electric vehicles. But how do they stand up to their gas-guzzling cousins? Here we assess their sustainability, from the triple-bottom line of Economy, Environment and Society.
A £5k government subsidy on each vehicle appears generous (although only 9 models are eligible, 6 are yet to be released, and of the three that are, 2 are currently only available for hire). So, the one remaining qualifying car that you can buy today - the Mitsubishi i-MiEV - is advertised as £24,000 after the subsidy. The Nissan Leaf, to be released in March, is the same post-subsidy price.
Cost of driving the car will be cheaper. The cars will be exempt from tax. Professor David MacKay suggests that an electric car can do 62.5m (100km) on 21kWh electricity - at 10p/kWh, this works out at £2.10, or 3.4pence/mile. The AA suggest that for a petrol car in the equivalent price range, 15.77p/mile is more likely. If the car is used every weekday for 48 weeks for a roundtrip of 60miles to and from work, then the owner would save approximately £1,780/year on fuel costs.
The whole point of these electric vehicles are that they are more environmentally friendly than traditional vehicles. However, it should not be thought that they are zero-carbon, or zero-emission. They have no emissions at end-use, yet, in all likelihood, fuels have been burnt to produce the electricity from which it runs. The cars can only claim to be zero-emission (in operation) if the electricity has been produced from renewable sources (although this simplistic model ignores the impact of life-cycle emissions).
So, there are emissions associated with electric vehicles. But how much? Again, to MacKay - "