What is the Go Ultra Low City scheme?

Keen to go green? Plug-in vehicles are to be granted a range of privileges in cities across the country as part of a government plan to encourage drivers to switch to environmentally friendly cars. The initiatives are funded by the Go Ultra Low City scheme, which is backed by £40 million of public money. More than a dozen streets in Hackney, London, will develop green vehicle technology, such as street lights that can also be used for car-charging. Harrow, to the north west of the capital, also plans to create a low-emission zone offering parking and traffic priority to owners of plug-in vehicles.

Free parking

In Milton Keynes, there will be free parking for ultra low–emission vehicles (ULEVs) in the city’s 20,000 parking bays, potentially saving commuters about £1,300 a year. The city will also co-brand bus lanes as low emission lanes, giving plug-in vehicles the same priority at traffic lights as local buses. Bristol will get £7 million to offer residents free residential parking for ULEVs, access to three carpool lanes in the city, over 80 rapid and fast chargers and a scheme encouraging people to lease a plug-in car for up to four weeks to help them better understand the plus-points of electric vehicles. Owners of ULEVs in Nottinghamshire and Derby will benefit from £6 million of funding to install 230 charge points. Drivers of green cars will also enjoy discount parking and access to more than 13 miles of bus lanes along key routes across the area. In addition, the scheme will provide £5 million of development funding for initiatives in Dundee, Oxford, York and the north east. New commuter charging hubs in Dundee will open up links across the region for plug-in vehicle owners, while solar-canopied park and ride hubs in York will help reduce air pollution in and around the city.

Green revolution

The government is keen to push the UK to the forefront of green technology. It plans to invest £600 million over the next five years and wants every new car and van in the UK to be ultra-low emission by 2040. The Go Ultra Low Cities scheme is part of the funding package. It also includes £400 million for individual plug-in car grants, investment in low emission buses and taxis, as well as research and development funding for innovative technology such as lighter vehicles and longer-lasting car batteries.

Growing market

Motorists are certainly showing an interest in plug-in cars and sales of ULEVs are growing rapidly. Plug-in vehicle registrations reached a record high in 2015, as 28,188 new ULEVs arrived on UK roads, more than the combined total of the past five years. The increase in sales is no doubt partly fuelled by the increase in the choice of cars – there are now about 30 plug-in models on sale in the UK. But the cost remains a barrier for many drivers. Some models are up to £10,000 more expensive than a conventional equivalent and there isn’t yet a thriving second hand market. Motorists can, however, apply for the government’s plug-in car grant. The grant covers 35% of the value of the car up to a maximum of £5,000 and 20% of the value of a van up to a maximum of £8,000. Since 2011, more than 50,000 plug-in grant claims have been made.

Running costs

They might be more expensive to buy, but ULEVs are typically cheaper to run. You don’t pay road tax on a plug-in vehicle. You don’t have to worry about the London Congestion Charge, either. It’s also often cheaper to charge an electric car than to fill a conventional car with petrol or diesel. But plug-ins still account for only a tiny percentage of total car sales and nothing much is likely to change until motorists feel confident they can charge their vehicles quickly, easily and cheaply. Most people charge their cars at home, either with a conventional plug socket or a dedicated charging point. A dedicated charger is usually more efficient and you can get a grant toward the capital and installation costs, up to a maximum of £700.

Charging points

The government has also invested in a national network of charging points. There are now about 9,000 and they are either slow, fast or rapid. A rapid charger can provide an 80% charge in about 30 minutes, and the UK now has the most comprehensive rapid charge point network in Europe. But they are not always free to use. The Zap Map guide has information on costs and access.

Did you enjoy that? Why not share this article