Plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom

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The REVAi/G-Wiz i electric car charging at an on-street station in London.

The introduction of plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom is actively supported by the British government, which, as of November 2013, has pledged GB£400 million to support the deployment of plug-in vehicles in the five years to March 2015.[1] Since 2010 more than 13,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the UK up until June 2014 including all-electric cars, commercial vans and plug-in hybrids.[2] As of November 2013, Britain has around 5,000 public charging points, of which, only 200 are quick chargers.[1]

Before the market launch of highway-capable mass production plug-in electric cars, a total of 1,096 electric vehicles were registered in the country between 2006 and December 2010,[3] and during this time, the G-Wiz, a quadricycle, listed as the top-selling EV for several years.[4] Highway-capable pure electric car registrations climbed from 138 units in 2010 to 1,082 units during 2011.[5] During 2012, a total of 2,254 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK,[6][7] with vehicles eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant representing a 0.1% market share of total new car sales in 2012.[8] A total of 3,584 plug-in electric cars were registered during 2013, representing a 0.16% market share of total new cars sales in 2013.[9][10] Registrations during the first seven months of 2014 totaled 5,125 plug-in electric cars, consisting of 3,058 were pure electrics and 2,067 plug-in hybrids.[11] As of July 2014, the all-time top selling plug-in electric car in the UK is the Nissan Leaf with 5,175 units sold since its introduction in March 2011.[12][13][14]

The Plug-in Car Grant programme started on 1 January 2011 and is available across the UK. The programme reduces the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25% grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars capped at GB£5,000. Both private and business fleet buyers are eligible for this grant which is received at the point of purchase.[15][16] The programme was extended in February 2012 to include plug-in vans. Van buyers can receive 20% - up to GB£8,000 - off the cost of a plug-in van. To be eligible for the scheme, vans have to meet performance criteria to ensure safety, range, and ultra-low tailpipe emissions.[17] Consumers, both business and private can receive the discount at the point of purchase.[17] As of 31 July 2014, the cumulative number of eligible registered cars was 11,184 since January 2011.[11] and as of 30 June 2014, a total of 637 claims had been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme.[17]

Government support[edit]

Speaking at the G8 summit in 2008, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans for Britain to be at the forefront of a "green car revolution". Mr Brown suggested that by 2020 all new cars sold in Britain could be electric or hybrid vehicles producing less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer (5.7 oz(CO2)/mi).[18] In preparation for the introduction of mass-produced electric vehicles to Britain's roads, trials of electric cars took place from 2009, with further trials in cities across the UK from 2010. Local British councils were invited to submit bids to become Britain's first "green cities". One example is Glasgow, where a Scottish consortium has been awarded more than £1.8m to run a pilot electric car scheme from 2009 to 2011.[19]

A Mitsubishi i-MiEV part of London Streets fleet.

London mayor Boris Johnson also announced plans to deliver 25,000 electric car-charging places across the capital by 2015, in order to make London the "electric car capital of Europe". His target is to get 100,000 electric vehicles on to London's streets. Mr Johnson has also pledged to convert at least 1,000 Greater London Authority fleet vehicles to electric by 2015.[19][20] Transport for London also announced that all new taxis must be zero emissions capable by 2018.[21] As of June 2014, there were about 3,000 plug-in electric vehicles in London, 3% of the mayor's goal, up from 1,700 electric cars in January 2009. The city also has only 1,408 charging points in operation, of which, only 57% were used in the first quarter of 2014.[21] In response to criticism for the slow progress, the Office of the Mayor said "it was on target to have 100,000 electric vehicles in use in the capital by 2020."

Public charging point in Arbroath Harbour, Scotland.

Nissan's Sunderland plant — the largest car factory in the UK — was granted a GB£20.7 million grant from the British government and up to GB£220 million from the European Investment Bank.[22][23][24] Production of the Nissan Leaf at the Sunderland plant began in March 2013.[25] The plant has the capacity to produce 60,000 lithium-ion batteries and 50,000 Leafs a year.[22] The UK produced Leaf are sold only in Europe has an improved driving range, lower price and a more European design.[26] The price of the 2013 Leaf produced in Sunderland is lower than the model built in Japan,[27][28] and Nissan is offering a battery leasing option for the three trims produced at Sunderland, which further reduced the purchase price by GB£5,000.[29][30]

As of November 2013, the UK government had pledged GB£400 million to support the deployment of plug-in vehicles in the five years between March 2010 and March 2015. However, as of 30 September 2013, only GB£92 million had been spent and an additional of GB£44 million had been committed for projects up to March 2015, of which, GB£82 million were allocated for research and development; GB£16 million on infrastructure such as public charging points; and GB£25 million in consumer purchase incentives (Plug-in Car Grant). As of November 2013, the UK has around 5,000 public charging points, of which, only 200 are quick chargers.[1] By April 2014 the UK was the leader in quick charging deployment in Europe, with 211 CHAdeMO charging stations available across the country.[31]

As a result of lower than initially expected electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales, in January 2014 the UK government launched the "Go Ultra Low" national campaign in partnership with five of the largest manufacturers of plug-in electric vehicles, BMW, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Vauxhall. The campaign has a cost of GB£2.5 million and its objective is to promote the benefits of electric and plug-in hybrid cars to buyers. The Government classifies any car emitting less than 75g/km of CO2 as ultra-low emission. The British government also announced its commitment to invest GB£9 million to install more rapid charge-points to make motorway journeys by electric car feasible. According to Nicholas Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, “Our clear objective is to move the car fleet in this country to ultra low-emission vehicles by 2040 and to put money and policy money behind it."[32]

Purchase incentives[edit]

In January 2009, transport secretary Geoff Hoon said the British government would make £250 million available for consumer incentives to bring electric cars to market in the UK.[20]

Plug-in Car Grant

The Plug-in Car Grant program started on 1 January 2011 and is available across the UK The programme reduces the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25% grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars capped at GB£5,000 (US$7,650). Both private and business fleet buyers are eligible for this grant which is received at the point of purchase. The subsidy programme is managed in a similar way to the grant made as part of the 2009 Car Scrappage Scheme, allowing consumers to buy an eligible car discounted at the point of purchase with the subsidy claimed back by the manufacturer afterwards.[15][16][33]

The Tesla Roadster was not included on the government's plug-in electric car grant list of eligible vehicles.[34]

Vehicles eligible for the subsidy must meet the following criteria:[15][35]

  • Minimum top speed: Vehicles must be able to reach a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) or more.
  • Warranty: Vehicles must have a 3-year or 60,000 miles (97,000 km) vehicle warranty (guarantee) and a 3-year battery and electric drive train warranty, with the option of extending the battery warranty for an extra 2 years(‘drive train’ means the parts that send power from the engine to the wheels. These include the clutch, transmission (gear box), drive shafts, U-joints and differential).
  • Battery performance: Vehicles must have either a minimum 5-year warranty on the battery and electric drive train as standard, or extra evidence of battery performance to show reasonable performance after 3 years of use
  • Electrical safety: Vehicles must comply with certain regulations (UN-ECE Reg 100.00) that show that they are electrically safe.
  • Crash safety: To make sure cars will be safe in a crash, they must either have: EC whole vehicle type approval (EC WVTA, not small series) or evidence that the car has appropriate levels of safety as judged by international standards

As of August 2014, the following 22 cars are eligible for the grant: BMW i3, BMW i8, BYD e6, Chevrolet Volt, Citroen C-Zero, Ford Focus Electric, Mia electric, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, Nissan e-NV200 5-seater Combi, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot iOn, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Renault Fluence Z.E., Renault Zoe, Smart Fortwo electric drive, Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Vauxhall Ampera, Volkswagen e-Golf, Volkswagen e-Up!, and Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid.[36] The Tesla Roadster was not included in the government's list of eligible vehicles for the plug-in electric car grant. Tesla Motors stated that the company applied for the scheme, but did not complete its application.[34] As of 31 July 2014, the cumulative number of eligible registered cars totaled 11,184 units since the launch of the programme in January 2011.[11]

Plug-in Van Grant

The Plug-In Car Grant was extended to include vans since February 2012. Van buyers can receive 20% - up to GB£8,000 (US$12,240) - off the cost of a plug-in van. To be eligible for the scheme, vans have to meet performance criteria to ensure safety, range, and ultra-low tailpipe emissions.[17] Consumers, both business and private can receive the discount at the point of purchase. The eligibility criteria are:[17]

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell is eligible for the Plug-In Van Grant.
  • Vehicle type: only new vans are eligible (vehicle category ‘N1’ with a gross weight of 3.5 tonnes or less). This includes pre-registration conversions (normal, internal combustion engine vans that were converted to battery or hybrid versions by specialist converters before the car’s first registration).
  • Carbon dioxide exhaust emissions: vehicles must emit less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre driven.
  • Range: eligible fully electric vans must be able to travel a minimum of 60 miles between charges. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) must have a minimum electric range of 10 miles.
  • Minimum top speed: vehicles must be able to reach a speed of 50 miles per hour or more.
  • Warranty: Vehicles must have a 3-year or 60,000-miles vehicle warranty (guarantee) and a 3-year battery and electric drive train warranty, with the option of extending the battery warranty for an extra 2 years
  • Battery performance: vehicles must have either a minimum 5-year warranty on the battery and electric drive train as standard

or extra evidence of battery performance to show reasonable performance after 3 years of use

  • Electrical safety: vehicles must comply with certain regulations (UN-ECE Reg 100.00) that show that they are electrically safe.
  • Crash safety To make sure cars will be safe in a crash, they must either have EC whole vehicle type approval (EC WVTA, not small series) or evidence that the car has appropriate levels of safety as judged by international standards.

As of 30 June 2013, a total of 637 claims had been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme.[17] As of August 2014, the following 12 vans are eligible for the grant: BD Otomotive eTraffic, BD Otomotiv eDucato, Citroën Berlingo, Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, Faam Ecomile, Faam Jolly 2000, Mia U, Mitsubishi Outlander GX3h 4Work, Nissan e-NV200, Peugeot ePartner, Renault Kangoo Z.E., and Smith Electric Edison.[36]

Plugged-in Places[edit]

On 19 November 2009, Andrew Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced a scheme called "Plugged-in-Places", making available £30 million to be shared between three and six cities to investigate further the viability of providing power supply for electric vehicles, and encouraging local government and business to participate and bid for funds.[37]

The Government is supporting the ‘Plugged-In Places’ programme to install vehicle recharging points across the UK. The scheme offers match-funding to consortia of businesses and public sector partners to support the installation of electric vehicle recharging infrastructure in lead places across the UK.[38] There are eight Plugged-In Places: East of England;[39] Greater Manchester; London;[40] Midlands;[41] Milton Keynes;[42] North East;[43] Northern Ireland;[44] and Scotland. The Government also published an Infrastructure Strategy in June 2011.[45]

London congestion charge[edit]

The Vauxhall Ampera is exempted from the London congestion charge.

All-electric vehicles (BEVs) and eligible plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) qualify for a 100% discount from the London congestion charge. As of April 2014, approved PHEVs include the BMW i3 with range extender, BMW i8, Chevrolet Volt, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Porsche 918 Spyder, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Vauxhall Ampera and Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid.[46][47]

The original Greener Vehicle Discount was substituted by the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) scheme that went into effect on 1 July 2013. The ULED introduced more stringent emission standards that limited the free access to the congestion charge zone to any car or van that emits 75g/km or less of CO2 and meets the Euro 5 emission standards for air quality. As of July 2013 there are no internal combustion-only vehicles that meet this criteria. The measure is designed to limit the growing number of diesel vehicles on London's roads. Mayor Boris Johnson approved the new scheme in April 2013, after taking into account a number of comments received during the 12-week public consultation that took place. About 20,000 owners of vehicles registered for the Greener Vehicle Discount by June 2013 were granted a three-year sunset period (until 24 June 2016) before they have to pay the full congestion charge.[48][49][50][51]

Field testing programmes[edit]

Field testing with 100 Smart EDs began in London in 2007.[52][53] On 30 April 2009, the Electric Car Corporation put on sale the Citroën C1 ev'ie, an adapted Citroën C1 intended for city driving. On that date, it had a list price of £16,850 ($24,989 US).[54][55][56][57]

Mini E recharging in the UK

A demonstration trial with the Mini E took place between December 2009 and March 2011 with 40 Mini E cars leased to private users for a two consecutive six-month field trial periods.[58] In addition, one Mini E was delivered to the Government car pool in Downing Street to be tested by ministers in an urban environment on their official business around London.[59] The UK trial was a partnership between BMW Group UK, Scottish and Southern Energy, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. Data collection and research was conducted by Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre throughout the UK project. Funding support was provided by the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport (DFT) as part of the GB£25 million (US$41 million) UK-wide program involving trials of 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles from several carmakers.[58][59][60] The selected test area is roughly a triangle contained within the M40 motorway between the M25 motorway and Oxford, the A34 south to the M3 motorway, and the M3 back to the M25.[61]

The 40 Mini E electric cars were kept in use after the trial was completed in March 2011, participating in activities to promote awareness and understanding of electric vehicles. These cars were part of the BMW Group UK’s official vehicle fleet of 4,000 low-emission luxury vehicles deployed for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The fleet also included 160 BMW ActiveE electric cars.[58][62]

Sales[edit]

Leased Nissan Leafs operating as electric patrol cars for the West Midlands Police, England. The Leaf is the top selling plug-in electric car in the UK, with 5,175 units up until July 2014.

Since 2006, a total of 13,778 plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the UK up until July 2014 including all-electric cars, utility vans and plug-in hybrids.[3][63][6][9][11][17] This figure includes a total of 637 all-electric commercial vans registered since February 2012 through June 2014.[17] A total of 1,096 electric vehicles were registered in the country between 2006 and December 2010,[3] with the G-Wiz quadricycle as top selling EV for several years.[4] Electric car sales grew from 138 units in 2010 to 1,082 units during 2011.[63][5]

During 2012, a total of 2,254 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK, of which, 1,262 were pure electrics, and sales were led by the Nissan Leaf with 699 units, followed by the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with 470 units, and the Vauxhall Ampera with 455 units sold in 2012.[6][7][12][64] In addition, 279 Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric vans and 252 Renault Twizy electric quadricycles were sold through September 2012.[65] Vehicles eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant accounted for 0.1% of total new car sales in 2012, with pure electric cars representing only 0.06%.[8]

During 2013, a total of 3,584 plug-in electric cars were registered, up 59.0% from 2012.[9][10] Of these, 2,512 were pure electric cars, up 99.0% from 2012, and 1,072 plug-in hybrids, up 8.1% from 2012.[9] Plug-in car sales represented a 0.16% market share of the 2.26 million new cars sold in the UK in 2013.[10] The top selling plug-in electric car during 2013 was the Nissan Leaf, with 1,812 units sold,[13] and the Prius PHV ended 2013 as the top selling plug-in hybrid with 509 units sold, up 8.5% from 2012.[10]

The BMW i3 was among the top selling plug-in electric cars in the UK during the first half of 2014.

The British market experienced a rapid growth of plug-in car sales during 2014, driven by the introduction of new models such as the BMW i3, Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, Renault Zoe, and Volkswagen e-Up!. The number of plug-in cars available in the market climbed from 9 models in 2011 to 21 models by June 2014.[2][66][67] During the first seven months of 2014 a total of 5,125 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK, consisting of 3,058 were pure electrics and 2,067 plug-in hybrids.[11] All-electric car registrations grew 132.9% and plug-in hybrids grew 261.4% year on year for the first seven months of 2014.[11]

Sales during the first seven months of 2014 were led by the Nissan Leaf with 2,029 units.[14] Among the new models with a significant effect in the market is the Outlander P-HEV, released in April 2014, sold 542 units capturing a 35.8% market share of total plug-in sales during the first half of 2014.[66] The Outlander sold an additional 399 units during July 2014, becoming the top selling plug-in vehicle that month and capturing a 43% of all applications to the Plug-in Car Grants scheme during July.[67] Since its launch in late 2013, a total of 513 i3s have been sold through March 2014.[2] Sales of the i3 with the REx option totaled 355 units during the first half of 2014, representing 25.6% of the plug-in hybrid and range extender sales to the end of June 2014.[66] Since its introduction in 2013, sales of the Renault Zoe totaled 462 units through March 2014.[2]

As of July 2014, the top selling plug-in electric car in the UK continues to be the Nissan Leaf with 5,175 units sold since its introduction in March 2011.[12][13][14] As of March 2014, the Leaf is followed by two plug-in hybrids, the Prius PHV with cumulative registrations of 1,089 units, and the Vauxhall Ampera with 767 units.[2]

The following table presents registrations of highway-capable plug-in electric cars by model between 2010 and June 2013.


Registration of highway-capable electric cars by model
in the UK between 2010 and June 2013[6][63][64][68][69]
Model Total
Sales
2010–2013(2)
Market
share(1)
Sales
2013
CYTD(2)
Sales
2012
Sales
2011
Sales
2010
Nissan Leaf 2,159 42.9% 825 699 635  
Toyota Prius PHV 765 15.2% 295 470    
Vauxhall Ampera 609 12.1% 150 455 4  
Peugeot iOn 401 8.0% 26 251 124  
Mitsubishi i MiEV 260 5.2% 1 107 125 27
Citroën C-Zero 201 4.0% 45 110 46  
Renault Zoe 132 2.6% 132      
Chevrolet Volt 90 1.8% 23 67    
Smart electric drive 79 1.6% 3 13   63
Renault Fluence Z.E. 74 1.5% 7 67    
BYD e6 50 1.0% 50      
Total registrations[3][63][6][70] 5,034 100% 1,560 2,254 1,082 138
Note: (1) Market share as percentage of the 5,034 highway-capable electric cars registered
in the UK since 2010 through June 2013 (Tesla Roadster not reported). (2) CYTD through June 2013.

Cost-effectiveness of carbon reductions[edit]

A study by Element Energy commissioned by BP and published in September 2013, concluded that the use of advanced biofuels in the UK, and particularly E20 cellulosic ethanol, is a more cost-effective way of reducing emissions than using plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the timeframe to 2030. The study also found that the use of higher blends of biofuels is complementary to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can deliver strong CO2 savings with a decarbonised electric grid, but are expected to have significantly higher costs than internal combustion engine vehicles and hybrid cars to 2030, as the latter are expected to be the most popular models by 2030. Accoding to the study, blending biofuels in fuels is a cheaper way to reduce emissions than using BEVs in the timeframe to 2030, as an E20 blend in a HEV can achieve a 10% emission savings compared to an HEV running on E5, for an annual fuel cost premium of GB£13 compared to an annual cost of GB£195 for an all-electric car. The study also concluded that advanced biofuels address emissions of both new and existing vehicles, thus reducing emissions earlier than new powertrains and abating the risk of relying solely on longer term deployment of new technology.[71][72]

See also[edit]

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