Electric car take-up in Britain is lower than a badger's back passage. It's so low, in fact, there's now mounting speculation the government will scrap the plug-in car grant that was originally intended to boost EV sales.
The scheme, introduced in January 2011, gave buyers a £5,000 discount off the purchase price of a new electric car. Just 768 vehicles were sold under this grant in the first three quarters of 2011, however, which is miles short of the government's incentive cap of 8,000.
This apathy has now raised concerns in some quarters that the grant could be axed in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement next Tuesday, and that if it were, it wouldn't be missed. Some critics have argued the scheme is a waste of taxpayer's money, that it's a 'gift' to those rich enough to be able to afford an electric car in the first place and the allocated cash would be better spent elsewhere.
Others, meanwhile, such as Elektromotive, a Brighton-based EV charging point manufacturer, believe the grant is crucial for EV success in the UK. "Persuading consumers to invest their time and money in new technology always presents challenges," says managing director Calvey Taylor-Haw. "But it's important to provide buyers with an incentive.
"If the government and the automotive industry are to convince motorists that electric vehicles are viable alternatives to petrol and diesel-powered cars, the plug-In car grant will play an essential role throughout next year," he added. "But cutting off the grant now could well undermine EV sales growth during the next 12 months."
He has a valid point. Electric cars are far too expensive at this point in time to be a serious proposition for the average consumer, and the grant, while not enormous, will play a growing role in convincing customers to go electric.
There is an argument, however, backed up by sales figures, to suggest grant or no grant, electric cars simply aren't yet ready for mainstream use.
Here's hoping, for the sake of consumer choice if nothing else, that the Chancellor is in a good mood next Tuesday. Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on our battery-powered Facebook page.