Forget Diesel – Tough Times Now Lie Ahead for the European Plug-in Crowd

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The European new car market is in a period of extreme flux. Once-dominant diesels are on the way out thanks to new regulations, looming bans, and cancelled tax incentives, with electrified vehicles poised to take over the high-MPG role.

But not everything’s rosy in the clean, green market on the other side of the Atlantic. A new, more accurate way of measuring fuel economy went into effect last month, and governments — as well as automakers — suddenly realized certain vehicles weren’t as clean as initially thought. Looking to buy a plug-in hybrid in the UK? Say goodbye to that juicy government incentive.

As of November 12th, the UK government will no longer hand over grants of 2,500 pounds ($3,295) to PHEV buyers. Meanwhile, those looking to buy in the former top-tier category (electric vehicles, or PHEVs capable of travelling 70 miles in EV mode) will see their grant slashed from 4,500 pounds to 3,500 ($4,617).

As Autocar reports, industry types are livid.

Created in 2011, a popular year for government green programs the world over, the grant’s disappearance is all about a change in focus. The program “helped the plug-in hybrid market become more established, and will now focus its support on zero-emission models like pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars,” the UK government said.

Naturally, there’s a run on popular plug-ins like the top-selling Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with consumers (and especially fleets) hoping to get their hands on one before they’re forced to pay full price. The same rush to buy was seen in Ontario in August, where Nissan Leaf sales spiked ahead of the cancellation of that province’s massive EV subsidy.

The September 1st switch from Europe’s New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) to the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) led to several automakers pulling their plug-ins from the market. More accurate fuel economy and emissions testing forced many back to the drawing board.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe,  JATO Dynamics analyst Felipe Munoz said plug-in hybrid sales are expected to crater for the rest of the year. At the end of August, European PHEV sales were up 48 percent, year to date.

[Image: Mitsubishi]

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