BEIS adds £4m to Plug-In Van grant to encourage electric fleets

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark has announced that the Government has opened up a £4m avenue for businesses to switch their large trucks and vans to electric models through the Plug-In Van grant.

The Plug-In Van grant was launched in 2012, and was available to small commercial vehicles of up to 3.5 tonnes. But with sales of electric vans remaining “limited”, grants of up to £20,000 can now be obtained by businesses that switch to electric vehicles (EV).

Announcing the new funding over the weekend, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary Clark said: “The electric car revolution is well underway with consumers and this funding will encourage more businesses to consider switching to cleaner vans and trucks.

“Our automotive sector is thriving with the world’s most popular electric car already made in the UK and we are forging ahead to deploy new engine technology to make low-carbon vehicles mainstream, and leading the way in driverless car technology.

“The Government and industry continue to work together to support the UK’s world-class automotive industry to ensure we continue to be the number one place in the world to develop and manufacture cars.”

Currently, around 96% of vans and trucks are diesel-powered, and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) hopes that extending the scheme will not only increase demand for electric versions, but also encourage new entrants into the market.

The extension follows on from December’s news that grants to subsidise the purchase of electric and other low-emission cars were to be extended to 2018, in a move that aimed to encourage more than 100,000 UK motorists to purchase greener vehicles.

The news will be particularly pleasing to the likes of Tesco and packaging and transportation firm UPS, both of which have called on policymakers to introduce a “level playing field” for low-carbon fleets. Tesco warned that more clarity was needed on the low-carbon future for freight fleets.

Scotland’s scheme

The Plug-In Van extension comes just days after the Scottish Government accelerated the Low-Carbon Transport Fund, by offering customers zero-interest loans worth up to £35,000 if they purchase EVs.

With only six months left to run on the scheme, more than half of the £7.8m funding pot has been allocated already. In addition to the loan – which runs until March 2017 or when all the funding has been acquired – Scottish drivers are also eligible for the UK’s Plug-In Car scheme which offers grants up to £4,500 off of the costs of new EVs.

These two factors have been major contributors to the growth of EVs in Scotland, which has seen numbers increase by 54% last year alone. Scotland’s minister for transport Humza Yousaf noted that the ongoing switch to EVs was “vital” in realising the country’s vision of “freeing Scotland’s towns, cities and communities from the damaging emissions of fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2050”.

The UK’s ongoing transition to EVs comes at a complex time on the European stage. Earlier today (24 October) it was revealed that new European cars with petrol engines will be allowed to overshoot a limit on toxic particulates emissions by 50%, under a draft EU regulation backed by the UK and most other EU states.

Matt Mace

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