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Roddy Graham's blog: 22 November 2010 - Hybrids will win over electric

Date: 22 November 2010

Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo

The Nissan Leaf has been voted Green Car of the Year by the GreenCarWebsite. Probably more significantly, it has made the seven-car shortlist for this year's European Car of the Year with the winner to be announced next month.

Unfortunately, for those keen on placing an order, the Leaf will not be produced in Sunderland until 2013 although it will reach these shores next spring with over 500 advanced orders secured so far by Nissan UK. The zero-emission Leaf is starting to attract attention among fleet buyers with its three-year/30,000 CAP residual value of 48%.

A combination of low running costs, no employee BIK over five years and no employer NI contributions makes this compact a potentially interesting proposition for certain fleets, especially those based in major towns and cities - if only as a green flag waver.

And it's not the only electric car arriving on these shores with the Citroen C-Zero, the Mitsubishi i-Miev, the Peugeot-Ion and several Renaults just some of the electric models on the immediate horizon. In fact, every major vehicle manufacturer is planning an electric model launch in 2011.

Meanwhile, there is good news and bad news for prospective electric car drivers in our capital. Starting with the bad news first, London Mayor, Boris Johnson has axed £13m from a scheme to install electric car charging points across the capital. Currently, there are 1700 electric vehicles registered to use the 250 plus charging points in London. Ambitiously, Boris declared earlier in the year that he wanted to make London the electric car capital of Europe but the original £20m pledged has been cut to just £7m making his target of having 7500 charging points installed by 2013 a tad unrealistic.

However, Source London has announced that an electric vehicle charging network will be launched next spring which will see 1300 charging points installed by 2013, a mere 17% of the 7500 target above! Mind you, if realised, that number will still see electric public charging points outnumber fuel stations by two to one! Significantly, electric car drivers, for around £100 per year, will be able to recharge anywhere in the capital and not have to register separately in each borough as at present. Transport for London is hoping to roll out the Source scheme to other towns and cities in the UK, presumably on some kind of franchise basis to create a nationally-recognised network.

Mayor Johnson's original ambitions were for Londoners to own 100,000 electric cars by 2020 with an electrical charging point no more than a mile away. A global HSBC report predicts that the EU will be the largest market in the world for electric vehicles, presumably in part due to its higher population density per square mile.

The Mayor is renowned for getting on his bike, and now seems intent on sparking interest in the electric vehicle revolution. From an environmental standpoint, it makes eminent sense as it will result in London's heavily polluted streets becoming cleaner, especially given the zero congestion charge for electric and other low emission vehicles.

Despite all the positive talk, it will be hybrid vehicles that will lead the charge with suggestions that hybrids and electric cars may outnumber petrol-driven vehicles by the end of the decade. However, such predictions are entirely dependent on the setting up of a comprehensive nationwide public recharging infrastructure and ignore the tremendous strides being made by vehicle manufacturers with low-emission petrol engines. Indeed, small capacity turbo-charged petrol engines are more reliably predicted to become commonplace.

Charging may become the order of the day but, in the short to medium-term future, is more likely to be of the turbo rather than electric variety.

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