The corridors of power, eh? As soon as you enter the SMMT designated area in Westminster you’re greeted by a glistening display of ultra low-carbon automotive prowess. Impressive, it would be, if the public and, more importantly, industry were buying the spiel accompanying the desire to turn UK roads into carbon-free environments.
The newest set of such glistening technology sits there now with the diamond marque that distinguishes Renault emblazoning the electric vehicles that are, if any range is, favourite to turn public opinion in favour of battery power. The problem is, Renault have got factories potentially full of similar exhibits but on a much grander voluminous scale. SMMT’s latest display reflects the glory of the ‘presence’ of thr Fluence ZE, Kangoo ZE and Twizy city car. Despite all of the cost savings on fuel and cheap van insurance and the incentives that the government are offering for plucky van and car owners, where is that ‘presence’?
In two recent reports, it is suggested that Plug-In chargers are the real issue. Whilst the government has seen fit to allow growth through private investment and is unlikely to invest in the public top-up meter infrastructure further, allowing their contribution to the electric revolution to culminate in the discounts offered in the Plug-In grant scheme, the private sector are not rushing to avail trade and public of the chargers in a hurry.
The residential scheme for chargers, nicknamed Polar and backed by Chargemaster, is not a carte blanche free service. The 4,000 meters it envisages installing across UK roads attract a one-off fee of £95 with a monthly contract usage of between £19.50 and £39.50, dependent upon forecast usage patterns.
Once you start to add up all of these little extras, you can see why the government are having to offer such savings off the purchase price. Although van insurance will be cheap, it’s not free; the same can be said of fuel, which will cost, using the Polar schematic, £0.95 per top-up.
According to the SMMT report, monthly battery hire from Renault for the models it is showcasing in its display, depending upon type, length of contract and mileage option chosen, will range from £45 to £133. When you factor all of these additional monthly costs, despite the market entry level of between £6,690 to £17,495 for those in the Westminster showcase, what on the surface seems to be a decent deal is proving quite costly in real terms.
The SMMT, with the delivery of the new exhibition vehicles, has issued the statement that carries the government sentiment about going ultra-low carbon in our driving habits. But the very real question remains, Can we afford to go green in these austere times? Are the van insurance savings, the fuel and the knowledge that you’re doing you bit for the environment enough to swing Joe Public and the captains of industry?
It would appear that, until a clear vision of what monthly running costs will be, no amount of discount is going to entice mass take-up of the government grant.