Low carbon and electric vehicles

The Government has a range of policies to support the development and commercialisation of lower carbon vehicles and their associated technologies. 

Summary of some of the key activities:

1. Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles in the UK (PDF)

On 16th April 2009, the Secretary of State for Transport, and Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, jointly announced the UK's strategy for Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles.  The strategy was published by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

This document gives an overview of the Government's activity over the next 5 years for research, demonstration and incentives, for consumers and industry. 
This includes reference to the £250m of consumer incentives to stimulate the take up of electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles (see below). 

2. £250m consumer incentives

On 16 April the DfT said that it would create a £250m scheme to reduce the price of electric and plug-in hybrid cars, from 2011 onwards, to help motorists buy them. Around £20m of the £250m will be used to develop an electric vehicle charging infrastructure framework helping create a UK network of electric car cities. This document outlines our proposals for the eligibility criteria and scheme operation for both initiatives.

Next steps in delivering the consumer incentive programme for electric and plug-in hybrid cars (119 kb)

3. Electric Vehicles

There are two types of EV, both of which offer lower CO2 emissions than normal internal combustion engine vehicles:

  • All-electric EVs are vehicles with an electric motor, with power coming from a rechargeable battery;
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are powered by both mains chargeable batteries and a normal internal combustion engine.  It is likely that PHEVs could be run in all-electric mode for short to medium distance journeys with the petrol engine used for longer journeys.

3.1 Carbon benefits

EVs potentially offer significant environmental  benefits compared with  existing internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs).

Research suggests, using the current UK power mix, EVs could realise  up to a 40% benefit in CO2 savings compared with a typical petrol  family car in the UK over the full life cycle.  Larger emission reductions  can be realised over time if the UK moves to lower carbon sources of  power generation.  

In 2008, the Departments for Transport and Business commissioned Cenex (UK Centre of Excellence for fuel cells and low carbon technology) and the consultancy firm Arup to look at the environmental and economic benefits and impacts that would arise from mass market EV introduction:

3.2 Recharging and Infrastructure grants

There are a number of charging points in the UK.  Some are on-street or in public car parks, for example the City of Westminster has 12 on street and 48 in its car parks.  Others can be found in places like in shopping centres.  The new Westfield Centre in west London has 30 EV charging bays, and the Highcross Centre in Leicester has over 100.

Charging can potentially take place at home, at the workplace or at public charging points.

A new Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Grant Programme, managed by Cenex will shortly be open for application to support the installation of electric vehicle charging points. 

3.3  Electricity grid issues

The demand for electricity will increase if managed poorly, but if managed for an example, through use of smart meters and dynamic tariffs, the UK grid could support a relatively high number of EVs without the need to build extra power stations.  In fact, electric vehicles can potentially provide a way to capture and store electricity at night from renewable sources like wind power.

3.4 Other support for EVs

As well as the £250m for EVs, generous exemption and discounts are  available.  These include:
National incentives  

  • Vehicle Excise Duty exemption
  • Enhanced Capital Allowance
  • Lowest rate of Benefit in Kind /company car tax

Local measures, for example:

  • Congestion Charge exemption in London
  • Free/reduced price parking in the City of Westminster

International measures:

  • EU New Car CO2 Regulation

4 Research, Development and Demonstration Programmes

The Government’s has a number of programmes to support research, development and demonstration of low carbon vehicles.

4.1 Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform [external website]

The Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform is a major element of the Government's response to the technology challenges to decarbonise road transport it supports UK based research, development and demonstration projects which address key technologies and systems for lower carbon vehicles over the short, medium and long term.

The Innovation Platform was announced in the May 2007 Energy White Paper and combines funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the Department for Transport (DfT), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Regional Development Agencies (North East One and Advantage West Midlands).  The objective of the Platform is to help accelerate the market introduction of lower carbon road vehicles and maximise the benefits to UK business of the transition to lower CO2 vehicles.

The first call for proposals under this new initiative was launched in September 2007 and 16 projects with £23m of support under this first competition were announced in May 2008.

Current [external website]

4.2 Competition for ultra-efficient systems for the market advancement of electric and hybrid vehicles 

Winners were announced at the national Low Carbon Vehicle Conference at Millbrook on 9th September 2009. Details can be found at: http://www.innovateuk.org/content/news/10m-investment-in-innovative-electrical-systems-fo1.ashx.

4.3  Ultra low carbon car demonstration programme [external website]

This competition is to demonstrate around 200 ultra low carbon (e.g. electric) cars (emissions below 50g/CO2/km) in locations around the UK.  There has been a strong response, more than double the scale of the programme.  Winners were announced in  June 2009.  Details can be found at: http://www.innovateuk.org/content/news/press-release-25m-trial-puts-electric-cars-on-uk-s.ashx.

4.4 Competition to accelerate research and development leading to the reduction of carbon emissions from mass market road vehicles. Details of this new competition [external website]

Further competitions will be announced later in the year.

4.5 Low Carbon Van Public Procurement Programme [external website]

The programme, which was announced in the May 2007 Energy White Paper, is a new initiative to use the public sector’s purchasing power to accelerate the introduction of innovative, lower-carbon models into the UK vehicle market. Initial funding of up to £20million is available to help public sector organisations meet the additional costs of procuring lower carbon technologies.

Cenex have been appointed to deliver the programme. 

The procurement process for the purchase of low carbon and all-electric vans was launched in the summer of 2008.  Ashwoods, Allied Vehicles, Smith Electric Vehicles and Modec are the successful companies supplying the vans to the six major public fleets forming part of the pilot projects with 6 local authorities:  The fleets participating are: 

  • Transport for London (TfL)
  • Metropolitan Police
  • Government Car Dispatch Agency
  • Environment Agency
  • HM Revenues and Customs
  • Royal Mail

The local authorities participating are:

  • Leeds City Council
  • Glasgow City Council
  • Coventry Low Carbon Fleet Partnership
  • Newcastle and Gateshead City Council
  • Liverpool City Council
  • Central London Partnership

Vehicles are expected to start arriving later this year.  The vehicles will be monitored closely to assess their carbon reduction potential in real world conditions. Successful initial trials may lead to financial support for further larger vehicle procurements in a second phase of the programme.

See the Low Carbon Van Procurement Programme website for more information: www.lcvpp.org.uk [external website].

For related documents, pages and internet links, see the column on the right.