A CAR scrappage scheme expected to be announced in the next few days has been rejected by ministers.
Last month it was reported that the government was considering such a scheme to kickstart the depressed car industry after the coronavirus crisis, and encourage the uptake of less polluting electric vehicles.
The scheme would have given customers £6,000 off the price of a new pure-electric car if they scrapped a petrol or diesel model. July 6 was suggested as a date for the announcement.
However, the Department for Transport (DfT) told The Times this week that there are no immediate plans to introduce such a scheme, and that it is already investing £2.5bn in the transition to electric cars.
This is the second time since 2018 that such a scheme has been voiced before not materialising. A similar plan focused on getting diesel vehicles off the UK’s roads was dropped in 2018 due to government fears that the it could be abused.
Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under secretary of state at the DfT, reiterated the government’s commitment to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2035. She said that the government would also take on board independent advice from the committee on climate change to bring forward the ban to as early as 2030.
A group of experts, led by Dr Steve Melia of the University of West England, wrote a letter to the DfT last month criticising the decision not to scrap the dirtiest cars on our roads. It said that the measures currently in place to nudge along the transition to electric vehicles were “clearly inadequate” and more drastic measures would have to be introduced to meet the government’s climate targets.
Maclean said: “A number of media articles have suggested that government is considering a scrappage scheme. The government has no plans at this stage to introduce a scrappage scheme.
“Rather, the government is investing around £2.5bn, with grants available for ultra-low emission vehicles, as well as funding to support charge-point infrastructure at homes, workplaces, on residential streets and across the wider roads network.”
Dr Melia told Driving.co.uk: “I believe that a scrappage scheme encouraging uptake of fully electric vehicles would be a good idea. The minister has acknowledged what the Climate Change Committee are saying about the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars – that we need to move faster.
“That is positive, but it remains to be seen what the government will actually decide to do. We must decarbonise faster overall. 2050 would be too late to reach net zero. Transport is now the biggest emitting sector and the government is not doing anywhere near enough to get those emissions down.”
Electric vehicles are becoming steadily more popular, with sales growing 131% in the first five months of this year compared to 2019, despite plummeting demand for cars as a whole due to the coronavirus crisis, and the closure of factories and dealerships. However, pure-electric vehicles still only make up 4.3% of new cars purchased. The AA estimated in January that only 0.2% of cars on the road are electric.
The upfront cost of electric cars is often cited by customers as the reason for not buying one, with upgrades to battery technology and expanding electric charging infrastructure meaning that range anxiety is becoming less of a prohibitive factor. The government currently offers a £3,000 subsidy to those purchasing an electric car, which was lowered from £3,500 in March.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “Drivers tell us that one of the biggest barriers to them opting for electric vehicles remains upfront cost. Until the cost of manufacturing these vehicles come down, we’d like to see the Treasury looks at ways of incentivising people to make the switch. While a scrappage scheme could have helped, there are other ways for the Treasury to look at encouraging their use – perhaps starting with reversing the recent cuts to the plug-in car grant.”