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Making low-carbon motoring an easier decision

According to a new survey, 65 per cent of people in Britain would consider buying or leasing an alternative fuel vehicle over the next couple of years. Of these alternatives, hybrids came out top in the survey, which also showed some interesting regional variations in attitudes to electric vehicles (EVs).

They were favoured the most in the North East, where the Plugged-in Places scheme has been going since 2010, and there is a commitment to regional manufacturing of EVs. Pleasing to see that targeted investment and local economic benefits really do work when it comes to new, green technologies. Also likely to arouse interest are urban-based hire schemes of futuristic-looking vehicles. In Grenoble, France, this is exactly what’s happening, with Toyota providing 70 brightly-coloured models for short journeys in the city - including a distinctive three-wheeled, one-seater. It is hoped that reasonably-priced hire, practically linked to transport hubs, will stimulate EV adoption as part of transport habits, and lead the way gently into mass ownership of low-carbon vehicles.

The ‘normalising’ of EVs is dependent on a number of factors. Affordability and reliability are two, and these are improving rapidly. But then there is the lifestyle factor - essentially, people have to be able to picture these vehicles as part of theirs. With this in mind, the school run has been targeted with a new government campaign, highlighting an estimated £440 million in fuel savings if drivers drop their brood off in an EV. These kind of statistics, coupled with the increasing range of models available to choose from, means there’s little doubt that the incentives to consider a low-carbon choice are stacking up. And a developer in Manchester is aiming to help take the decision out of new home-owners’ hands altogether.

Two Smart cars will be available to hire for the residents of a new luxury block in the city centre - but with 344 apartments, we’d certainly like to think that might be a conservative number of vehicles on offer. It’s certainly a novel idea with potential - but it’s important to make sure that such undoubted benefits are not just the preserve of those buying luxury flats, and also that a realistic supply is there to meet possible demand. With EV range anxiety becoming a thing of the past, it would be a shame for it to be replaced with an anxiety about whether it’s possible to get hold of a practical, sustainable vehicle.

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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