Forget the green flash, what we need is a real incentive

The Sun's former motoring editor and our guest blogger, Ken Gibson, reckons the government should stop the gimmicks and come up with proper ways to help out the motor industry.

The Government initiative to put a green flash on electric car number plates is a headline grabbing move that is, in reality, irrelevant.

They want to put the splash of colour on number plates of all electric cars and consider offering incentives to EV drivers like the use of the bus lanes, cheaper parking and exemption from zero emission zone restrictions. They say it will also raise awareness of electric cars on the road.

The harsh reality is that the British car industry is facing its biggest crisis because of the Coronavirus, both in manufacturing and in retail. New cars sales have slumped by 90 percent and are over 400,000 down in the last three months, and our car plants have produced only a few thousand cars in the same period.

Thousands of jobs have already been lost at Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren and Nissan. Land Rover have just announced 1,100 agency jobs are to go and there is bound to be more bad news from other companies.

What the Government should be doing is launching a serious incentive scheme - like the Scrappage Scheme in 2009/10 - to help urgently kick start our car industry and at the same time get older dirty cars off the road.

The government hopes their new number plate scheme will boost electric car awareness and sales

The Scrappage Scheme which took £2,000 off the prices of a new car resulted in nearly 400,000 sales in 2009, and that’s what we need now. But it should be available on any new cars - electric, hybrid, petrol and diesel, not simply all electric.

Everyone knows that the Government is obsessed with electric cars and we know they are a key part of the long-term future, but it’s time they accepted that today’s modern clean petrol and diesel engines are also part of the immediate and mid-term solution.

They should also never have stopped the Government grant for hybrids or reduced the grant on electric cars by £500. If they want to take positive action they should put the grants back to where they were as a real incentive to motorists.

Electric cars are becoming more affordable but for many motorists they are still too expensive and don’t have the range to be used as viable transport for many people. The Government needs to appreciate that and accept that petrol, diesel and especially hybrid models have a key role to play.

The Government should also invest more cash immediately to deliver a charging infrastructure that is good enough to meet a real surge in electric cars that the Government say they want. The present infrastructure is nowhere near good enough.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the Government is: “in the driving seat” of global efforts to tackle vehicle emissions, but he wants to accelerate this. He is delusional, the UK is not in the driving seat, it is very much in the back seat.

Countries like Norway are way ahead of us, because they have given clear incentives over a period of years, not simply climbed on the bandwagon.

Now is a great opportunity to push the many virtues of electric cars, but it must be part of a package of measures that benefit not only the majority of motorists, but crucially helps to kick start the UK car industry and give the 800,000 people it employs a long term future.

Our car industry is one of the few globally competitive manufacturing industries left in the UK, we have world class production line workers, engineers and designers. If the Government truly wants to support it they should take real action - not just try and distract us with green flash gimmicks.

Fleet Street veteran Ken Gibson has a few words of wisdom for the government

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