Is it time to go Dutch on electric vehicles?

As a nation, we still don’t really trust electric vehicles (EV’s). In spite of the government incentives and cheaper running costs, there’s still something about electric cars that arouses suspicion – it could be a worry about how far we can get on a single charge, the hassle of refueling or the fact the things cost so much more to buy than similar fossil-fuelled models.
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Or it could simply be that these incentives just aren’t enough. So is it time we upped our game in the UK and looked to places like Holland and Norway, the only countries on the planet where EV sales account for more than 1% of new cars sold, to see why their incentive schemes are working?

Going Dutch

Worldwide sales of EV’s have now tipped the 200,000-a-year mark, which means number-crunchers can now start analyzing the figures to work out which incentives are attracting buyers and why – a task taken on by the boffins at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). ICCT analysts have examined the relationship between EV incentives and take up across eight European countries, as well as China, Japan and the US and produced a report, entitled Driving Electrification, which has found the only places where EV’s account for more than 1% of new cars sold are those that offer substantial financial incentives or have legal requirements for supplying electric cars. Norway, where plug-ins and hybrids accounted for 6.1% of all cars sold in 2013, currently leads the way in EV take-up, closely followed by the Netherlands where eco-cars made up around 5% of car sales last year.
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It comes as no surprise to learn these two countries offer the highest incentives, by way of purchase and registration tax exemptions and fuel prices. For instance, lower running costs and tax incentives in Norway mean that motorists can save as much as €11,500 (£9,357) by buying an all-electric Renault Zoe instead of a Clio, its petrol-powered equivalent. German motorists, on the other hand, would only stand to save €1,362 (£1,108), making the hassle-free Clio the more attractive option.

It’s not all about the money

The ICCT report also found that it wasn’t just financial incentives that drove high EV sales and other options such as the shared use and shared ownership of EV’s should be considered. California, for example, is the only place outside of Norway and Holland where EV’s make up more than 1% of all new car sales, and this is largely down a state-wide regulation that requires car manufacturers to supply a certain number of zero-emission vehicles that come with added parking benefits and grants of around $2,450 (£1,465) for full electric vehicles and $1,498 (£895) for hybrids.
Is it time to buy a hybrid car The take-up in Holland could be set to grow even further following the news that the A15 motorway, which runs from the port of Rotterdam to the east of the country, is to be turned into the world’s first sustainable motorway, used by a large number of EV’s, all powered from renewable sources and generated along the motorway’s corridor. If the plan is a success it’s hoped that by next year 40,000 people will own or share an EV powered by solar or wind energy from panels or turbines located alongside the A15. So maybe it’s time we looked at making our ‘smart motorways’ a little bit smarter. Over to you - what incentives would make you take the plunge and go electric?
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