Should government cash subsidise green car purchases?


Want to buy an electric car? No, we didn't think so – and that's the problem the government's Transport Select Committee is investigating.

Currently not enough people are taking advantage of the £5,000 grant available to buy ultra-low emissions vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) told Autoblog that this year only 989 cars, eligible for the grant, had been sold.

MPs are concerned that the money being invested into the grant is not being used properly. So far £11m has been spent by the Department of Transport on subsidising these cars – but there are question marks over whether this should carry on.

Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: "The government must do more to show that its plug-in vehicle strategy is a good use of public money. Ministers should not sit back and hope that the policy on plug-in cars will reduce transport carbon emissions. Far more work is required to ensure that this programme is a good use of public funds."

The automotive industry certainly wants to see the funding continue. Experts told Autoblog that it was a good way of incentivising early adopters of the technology to make the step away from normal combustion engines.

Speaking to Autoblog, Paul Everitt, the SMMT's chief executive, said: "The automotive industry supports government policies that promote the uptake of low and ultra-low carbon vehicles and the long-term development of this market as part of a wider strategy to deliver industrial growth."

Nissan – which was one of the first manufacturers to market with an electric car – wants to see the funding continue too.

"We welcome any assistance from the government that helps drivers adopt electric technology," a spokesperson for the firm told Autoblog. "We are not in government so can't decide on policy but we would certainly like to see the grant, and other support, continue.

"The very first Leafs were bought by early adopters - people who had an interest in technology and the environment. But now we are seeing more companies purchase them as they can see the benefits it brings in terms of cost and CO2 reduction.

"These are still early days for EVs and assistance to persuade and educate drivers to make the change is still needed. Car manufacturers and buyers would find it helpful to have sight of the government's strategy regarding taxation, incentive and infrastructure support in order to help us make investment and buying decisions."

What the government decides to do is still anyone's guess, but the fact it has been highlighted means changes could be on the horizon.

Do you think the government should be spending cash on helping drivers adopt EV technology or is it a waste of public funds? Let us know by posting your comments below.