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Coalition government supports the ‘Go Ultra Low’ initiative

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has insisted that the Government is still committed to supporting electric cars and that there is ‘no date in the diary’ for attractive government subsidies to be withdrawn. Mr Clegg was speaking at a launch event in London for the ‘Go Ultra Low’ initiative, a campaign which promotes the benefits of plug-in hybrid and straight electric cars.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has insisted that the Government is still committed to supporting electric cars and that there is ‘no date in the diary’ for attractive government subsidies to be withdrawn. Mr Clegg was speaking at a launch event in London for the ‘Go Ultra Low’ initiative, a campaign which promotes the benefits of plug-in hybrid and straight electric cars. The Government is set to sink *2.5 million into the campaign and Mr Clegg also announced at the launch that another *9 million is to be invested in a scheme to install rapid charge points across the motorway network in an effort to make long distance journeys in electric cars more feasible.

Despite incentives like the Government’s *5,000 subsidy, take up of electric cars remains slow. In the year up to September 2013, only 5,702 claims were made on the subsidy pot. The Government appears to be firm in its desire to increase this take up, as Mr Clegg confirmed: “Our clear objective is to move the car fleet in this country to ultra low-emission vehicles by 2040 and to put public money and policy money behind it.” According to the Government, cars with emissions lower than 75g/km of CO2 fall into the ‘Ultra low’ emissions category.

The Go Ultra Low initiative includes carmakers BMW, Renault, Nissan, Vauxhall and Toyota. Unusually, these competitors are working together on the project, as Nissan chief in the UK, Jim Wright, points out: “I can’t remember a time when manufacturers have worked together like this,” he said. In 2013, only 1.3% of cars sold were classed as ‘alternatively fuelled’ and this figure includes standard hybrid models, like the Prius from Toyota. This figure may improve next year with the launch of BMW’s i3. The company expects to sell 2,000 units per year initially, building to 6,000 to 7,000 or around 5% of total sales. Boss of BMW’s ‘i’ division, Suzanne Gray, confirmed the figures but pointed out that the projections depended upon government subsidies remaining in place.

Subsidies aren’t the only vital factor, however. The UK lacks a coherent rapid charger network. These units can charge an electric car’s battery to about 80% of capacity in 30 minutes. The government, however, seems unsure about the number of such stations in operation across the country. Official Government estimates vary from 6,000 to 15,000. On the plus side, the current initiatives will see most motorway service stations having a rapid charge facility by the end of this year. This is undoubtedly a step forward but clearly many more steps remain to be taken for electric cars to succeed.

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