While the UK has not been the most forward thinking country when it comes to electric vehicles there have been a number of significant changes in this strategy over the last few months. For some strange reason the UK electric car industry is really starting to take off so what exactly is going on and what can we expect in the future?
Electric car trials across the UK
The UK government has today announced a £25 million electric car program which will seat 340 vehicles join the UK roads in places such as London, Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Newcastle and Glasgow. Most of the vehicles involved in the trials will be wholly electric although there are some petrol hybrids which have been introduced to the mix to gain feedback from users.
Many people believe this is the start of the UK electric car industry, one which could if successful lead the world on ultralow carbon emission vehicles.
Nissan targets the UK market
Nissan has announced plans to flood the UK market with electric cars from 2010 onwards when the first mainstream Nissan electric car will be unveiled. In conjunction with Renault, Nissan will be unveiling three different electric cars with forecasts that 100,000 electric vehicles will roll off the production line each year from 2012 onwards. The UK has been a significant base for Nissan over the last few years and is set to play a major role in the onward development of this exciting sector.
The Smart ForTwo electric car
While the Smart ForTwo electric car has for sometime been one of the more popular electric cars available around the world, we are set to see introduction of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive which is aimed specifically at the short distance market. It should be available in early 2010 and will offer a maximum distance between charges of 60 miles although unfortunately the top speed is set to be no more than 30 mph. Whether this will count against the car in the short to medium term remains to be seen although 30 mph in a built in area is the maximum speed in many parts of the country.
Electric cars and London
As we covered in one of our earlier post, Boris Johnson has stepped forward in his role as the Mayor of London to introduce a scheme to have in excess of 100,000 electric vehicles in London by 2025. While there appear to be a number of minor snags with regards to the scheme, including parking, the charging bases and possible congestion, it seems as though London will be the U.K.'s first major electric car centre. Whether the 100,000 vehicle target will be met by 2025 is open to debate put Boris Johnson has certainly "set the cat amongst the pigeons".
Electric hire cars
One major development in the electric car market which has gone fairly unnoticed in the mainstream media is the introduction of the U.K.'s first electric hire car by the U.K.'s largest pay as you go car sharing club, Streetcar. The company has a number of adapted Toyota Prius models available with rates starting at under six pounds per hour and certainly catching the attention of many hire car drivers.
Why is the UK electric vehicle market so active at the moment?
There are a number of reasons why the UK electric vehicle market is so active at the moment but many people are at a loss to explain why all of a sudden the UK government has snapped into life. Some of the factors to consider include:
The price of oil
Over the last 18 months, as the worldwide recession began to take hold, the price of oil has been very volatile to say the least. This is one factor which appears to have caught the attention of governments, consumers and car manufacturers around the world and has perhaps been the strongest signal yet that the electric car market needs to evolve in the short to medium term.
While the eco-friendly supporters of years gone by were often dismissed as fringe parties and fringe voters, there is no doubt the movement has grown significantly over the last decade. Consumers are no aware of the comparable price of an electric car against a traditional petrol/diesel car and the benefits to both consumers and the environment. This significant push by consumers has led to companies such as Nissan announcing plans for the introduction of 100,000 electric vehicles a year by 2012.
Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in the road tax associate with more traditional vehicles in the UK. A number of tax incentives have been introduced to the electric car sector, which have caught the eye of consumers at this most difficult of financial times. However, whether the government can afford to, or even wants to, continue with tax incentives on a medium to long-term basis, is very much shrouded in mystery.
Development of the electric car
Paramount to an increase in availability and demand for electric cars has been the significant technology improvements over the last decade. These improvements have primarily occurred away from the UK in places such as the Far East and America although there are niche players in the UK who have come to the surface.
As we approach the next UK general election there is no doubt that fringe green parties and eco-friendly parties have grabbed a significant portion of floating voters. The main parties are now realising that green policies and green programs do count and we have seen both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party issue their own individual eco-friendly green policies.
For some reason the UK electric car market has sprung to life over the last couple of years and just lately we have seen a scheme which will see over 100,000 electric vehicles in London, eight test centres up and down the country and plans by Nissan to be producing over 100,000 electric cars a year by 2012. The mass-market is certainly being targeted by the major car manufacturers which should increase the number of electric cars on the road in the UK and other countries around the world.
The UK could potentially, if investment is forthcoming in the short, medium and longer term, become one of the major players in the electric vehicle market after seeing the traditional car manufacturing industry decimated over the last 20 or 30 years.