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Electric vehicles - Power for the people

Aiming to ensure the UK takes the lead in using zero-emission vehicles, the government is pumping £400m into kick starting an electric vehicles revolution

The government is pumping millions of pounds into establishing the UK as a leading user of zero-emission electric vehicles ? and the first cars to benefit from the cash injection are already on the nation?s roads.

Historically, vans have been at the forefront of what ministers hope is an electric vehicles revolution. But the government is so confident that battery technology has a crucial role to play in a low-carbon Britain that it is supporting the uptake of electric power with around £400m of investment. As part of the revolution, government cash is being used to support a 340-strong electric vehicles demonstration fleet involving a wide range of organisations, including vehicle manufacturers and universities. In addition, up to 150 low-emission and all-electric vans are to be added to public-sector fleets in the near future.

The government has already promised to use some cash to fund an incentive of up to £5,000 off the list price of electric vehicles to encourage the consumer take-up of electric cars ? as well as plug-in hybrid cars ? from 2011 onwards.

Meanwhile, electric vehicles are already exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty and from April 2010:

  • All electric cars will be exempt from company car tax for five years
  • All electric vans will be exempt from van benefit charge for five years
  • A 100% first-year allowance will be provided for the purchase of electric vans, subject to confirming compatibility with state aid rules.

The tax incentives for electric vehicles were announced in December?s Pre-Budget Report. Welcoming the measures, John Lewis, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: ?We are really pleased that the Chancellor has listened to our call to modernise the business tax regime and give a clear, long-term incentive for companies willing to be early adopters of electric cars and vans.

?Together with the £2,500-£5,000 incentive the government is planning to introduce from 2011 for people buying ultra-low-carbon cars, these new measures will help speed up the mass-market adoption of sustainable road transport in Britain. We believe business users will be at the forefront, but all this depends on manufacturers swiftly coming to market with attractive, affordable, reliable and safe electric vehicles.? North East-based Smith Electric Vehicles has been among those niche van manufacturers that have seen models acquired in small numbers by the likes of BSkyB, DHL, John Lewis, Royal Mail, Sainsbury?s and TNT.

Electric Vehicle Accelerated Development in the North East ? EVADINE ? has an initial 35 vehicles developed by a consortium that includes Nissan

While electric vehicles cost much less to run than diesel vehicles, they are currently up to three times more expensive, but the company?s sales director Kevin Harkin believes the tax incentives will help to bridge the cost gap and boost sales, which in turn will drive volume production and lower the cost of electric vans. Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans to put 100,000 electric vehicles on the capital?s streets as soon as possible and install 25,000 electric vehicles charging points by 2015. The estimated cost of installing these points and converting at least 1,000 Greater London Authority vehicles to electric by 2015 is £60m. Currently, electric cars are only sold in the UK by a handful of niche manufacturers or importers.

However, late this year/early 2011 Mitsubishi will become the first mainstream manufacturer to launch an electric vehicle ? the i-MIEV city car ? in the UK, and simultaneously Citroen and Peugeot will launch their own version of the same vehicle, which will be known as the C-Zero and i0n respectively. Meanwhile, Renault has announced the arrival of three electric vehicles in 2011 ? a four-door lower-medium-sector car to be called the Fluence, an electric version of the Kangoo Van and a compact city car ? with a supermini to follow in 2012.

Nissan, Renault?s alliance partner, will also introduce its electric Leaf in 2011, which could be built at its Sunderland factory, while General Motors (GM) may build the electric Ampera at its Ellesmere Port plant ? the ?home? of the Vauxhall Astra ? with a launch date slated for 2011/12. At about the same time, Ford also plans to launch an electric version of the Focus ? Britain?s best-selling car. So, don?t be fooled into thinking that the new breed of electric vehicles are only small city cars ? Ford, GM, Nissan and Renault will all have electric family cars in their ranges in the next two to three years.

Compared with an average vehicle, the engines of electric vehicles have very few moving parts ? typically just three or four compared to a diesel engine which has in excess of 1,000 ? which keeps servicing simple and minimal. Additionally, a full charge at home for a completely flat battery costs around £1.50 when using off-peak electricity or around £4 when charging during peak hours. This translates to a cost of just over a penny a mile when charging off-peak. Battery range varies from model-to-model but is typically around 100 miles on a full charge. However, while manufacturers highlight the low running costs of electric vehicles, what makes models more expensive than equivalent petrol or diesel models is the cost of the battery.

With fleet operators typically basing vehicle choice lists on total cost of ownership figures, used car experts at CAP Motor Research have warned: ?Our customers are asking for clear information to enable them to plan their future vehicle mix strategies but there is still very little confirmed information from manufacturers around crucial questions such as battery finance options, battery life, anticipated replacement costs, charging systems and overall running costs.

?This means we are unable to realistically offer a view on future residual values and only when those questions are answered will we be able to do so.? Meanwhile, around £30m of the government?s £250m will be used to develop the UK?s current piecemeal electric vehicles charging infrastructure framework in cities. The government has announced a project called ?Plugged-In Places?, which is being managed by the newly-established Office for Low Emission Vehicles and will support the development of between three and six electric vehicles cities and regions across the UK, which will act as trailblazers for electric-car technology. The first Plugged-In Places will be London, Milton Keynes and the North East; and between them they will be installing over 11,000 electric vehicles recharging points during the next three years.

MINI E joins Government electric vehicle announcment Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Ian Robertson, Sales and Marketing Director of BMW Group AG

In the North East of England ? a designed Low Carbon Economic Area focusing on ultra-low-carbon vehicles, along with the Midlands ? the regional development agency, One North East, has submitted a funding bid to help install 619 electric vehicles charging points later this year.

However, currently, the focus of electric vehicles is the far-reaching ?real world? demonstration programme, which sees:

  • The West Midlands consortium, called CABLED ? short for Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrators ? and composed of 13 organisations, which is developing and demonstrating 110 low-carbon vehicles of which 40 are Smart electric vehicles, 25 Mitsubishi i-MIEV models, 25 Tata Indica electric car and five LTI electric taxis. Some of the electric vehicles are already on the road.
  • Electric Vehicle Accelerated Development in the North East ? EVADINE ? sees an initial 35 electric vehicles developed by a consortium that includes Nissan, Smith Electric Vehicles in partnership with LTI, AVID Vehicles, Liberty Electric Cars, Newcastle University and One North East. The project includes 15 Nissan cars, 10 Smith electric taxis, five Smith people carriers, a Smith executive minibus, two AVID saloon cars and two Liberty urban Range Rovers, alongside a network of charging points.
  • Ford Focus Battery Electric Vehicle, with support from Scottish and Southern Energy. A fleet of zero-emission prototype Ford Focus BEVs will be used by both the energy company and evaluation drivers based in Hillingdon, Middlesex during 2010.
  • London South East Bid. Since 2007, Smart has been trialling 100 electric cars with partner companies across the country. Additionally, from April, 100 drivers in London, the South East and West Midlands will be selected to take delivery of the latest-generation Smart fortwo electric vehicles in a trial that also involves EDF Energy, Westminster City Council, the Greater London Authority and electric charging point provider Elektromotive. Following fleet feedback from the initial trial, Smart has already decided to manufacture an electric car from 2012.
  • Already underway is the MINI E Research Project, which sees a 12-month field trial of 40 electric MINIs. Apart from the BMW Group, which includes Mini, consortium members include Scottish and Southern Energy, responsible for providing the infrastructure in and around Oxford and the South-East of England by installing the private and public charging points; and Oxford Brookes University?s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre, which is responsible for undertaking scientific-data analysis.
  • The Allied Vehicles Project has been launched and sees 40 Peugeot-based battery electric vehicles being tested in Glasgow in a project involving Allied Vehicles, Glasgow City Council, ScottishPower, Axeon and Strathclyde University.
  • The EEMS Accelerate project, will put 21 cutting-edge high-specification electric sports cars on the road for 12 months. It is hoped that the resultant knowledge that the latest ?aspirational? cars are actually electric cars will bring about change to current assumptions about electric vehicles technology. The consortium is led by AEA, one of the world?s leading energy, climate-change and data-management consultancies, and electric vehicles will be produced by UK niche manufacturers: Delta Motorsport, Lightning Car Company and Ecotricity cars with support from Green-Motion, Europe?s first car and van rental network focused on providing low-emission vehicles.

Meanwhile, in a separate initiative, Allied Vehicles, Smith Electric Vehicles and Modec are supplying up to 150 electric vans to six public sector fleets ? Transport for London, Metropolitan Police, Government Car Dispatch Agency, Environment Agency, HM Revenues and Customs and the Royal Mail ? and six local authorities ? Leeds City Council, Glasgow City Council, Coventry Low Carbon Fleet Partnership, Newcastle and Gateshead City Council, Liverpool City Council and the Central London Partnership, as part of a three-year government-backed trial.

Summing up the government?s electric vehicles ambition, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said: ?The UK can be a world leader in electric vehicles which is why the government has already committed around £400m of support.

?Our aim is for electric and low-carbon cars to be an everyday feature of life on UK?s roads in less than five years.?
Ashley Martin

Added the 19 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1

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