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Alternative fuel vehicles: more motorists vote for volts

It's a good time to buy an electric vehicle – and it shows. 

New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show alternative fuel vehicles increased by a fifth – which take them up to a record 4.2% share of new vehicles in the UK overall.

The majority of these cars are petrol hybrids but the month has shown a 73% increase in pure electric cars compared to a year ago. While there’s clearly still a long way to go before EVs are the go-to motor, all signs point to an unstoppable trend – and an unstoppable decline for dirtier rivals on the roads. 

Diesels down

On the latter, diesel engines in cars are definitely on the way out in cities around the world. Big global cities have plans to ban them, with Paris, Mexico City, Athens and Madrid recently agreeing to get them off their roads by 2025. 

In the UK, resale values for older diesels (pre-2015) could fall in some areas when London introduces its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) currently planned for implementation in 2020. In clear air zone cities, such as Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton, they may restrict and/or charge older diesel cars for access.

There is of course an obvious, overwhelming driver of downwards momentum for fossil fuel engines in the coming years. In the long term, petrol and diesel prices are only going to rise. But enough of the polluters' pessimism – why go electric?

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The case for EVs

Charging electric carsEarly adopters of EVs in the UK are getting a good deal right now. The plug-in car grant (up to £4,500 towards the cost) is an attractive incentive, but it's not going to last forever. Once the market takes off, it is likely that the incentive will be phased out – so now very much is the time to take the plunge. 

Then there's the up-front affordability of the vehicles. EVs with very good ranges, like the Renault Zoe, are starting to enter the mainstream in terms of cost. The range of over 180 miles per charge is enough to cover 98 per cent of journeys for the average motorist. 

Want more? Well there is more. This spring, the vehicle tax system is changing. Now, there is no tax (VED) on cars emitting up to 100g/km of CO2. But come April, this is changing so that if you want to avoid VED altogether, you'll need an EV; hybrids and low emission petrol and diesel cars won't give you this benefit any more. 

As bad as fossil fuels? Not so

The potential of EVs to cut long-term motoring costs is considerable – but one criticism that's sometimes levelled is that they are just as bad as petrol/diesel because we’re still burning fossil fuels to provide the electricity. There is, however, a pretty strong rebuttal to this. 

Fuelling an electric car on current UK grid electricity reduces CO2 emissions by around 40% and as electricity generation becomes cleaner, so do all the electric cars powered by it. Fewer carbon emissions and better air quality in our towns and cities is an environmental win-win.

And with more low carbon infrastructure set to connect to the grid in the coming years, the sustainability case for electric motoring will only get stronger and stronger. 

Are you considering an alternative fuel vehicle? Learn more about the new On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme - use the hashtag #OLEVORCS and tweet @OLEVgovuk.

Share your thoughts with us - comment below or tweet us at @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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Well put. These are some of the reasons I switch to electric from diesel.