Government funds £9m ‘try before you buy’ EV scheme

Local authorities can now get over £9 million in government cash to encourage businesses to make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).

Highways England is building on the success of pilot EV schemes earlier this year and has £9.3 million to give to councils. Under the scheme, businesses can “try before they buy”, and start replacing their diesel van fleets.

The scheme will enable companies to fully test electric vans for two months before switching, as part of the Government’s strategy for lowering harmful emissions on the road to net zero in 2050.

Studies by insurance company Direct Line show that running EVs is actually cheaper than internal combustion engines, and a better move financially when the total cost of ownership over a vehicle’s lifetime is measured.

EV cheaper running costs

EVs are much cheaper to maintain and service because they have fewer moving parts and do not need oil changes, for example. It’s also possible to save on insurance. And electric vans are fully exempt from road tax.

The Government this year gave van buyers the same incentives to go green as it has car buyers, so annual vehicle excise duty for all fully electric, zero-emissions vans is £0. However, this is only for fully electric vans.

The “try before you buy” scheme has been made possible by Highways England’s Designated Funds programme which is focused on making “a positive difference – for people, the economy and the planet”. Over the next five years, the organisation will invest £936 million in standalone funding, allocated to four funding streams:

  • environment and wellbeing
  • safety and congestion
  • users and communities
  • innovation and modernisation.

The EV initiative follows a pilot and a launch with Leeds City Council earlier in the year, with councils in Coventry, Kent, Nottingham and Sheffield now working to set up their own schemes. Bristol City Council has also agreed to a deal that will see Highways England provide it with £3 million of funding.

Big EV sign-up

Electric vans used for the trial scheme in Leeds have covered more than 10,000 miles over the past five months as part of the city’s emergency coronavirus response.

The vehicles have been widely used to deliver local food parcels to those self-isolating or shielding, transporting council key workers and supporting the work of vital third sector organisations.

James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“Since launching the EV Trials scheme with Highways England in January, we’ve had a great response. Hundreds of local businesses and charities have already signed up to the scheme and its fantastic to see so many organisations leading by example.

“It’s still early days, but it’s really promising to see participants starting to invest in electric vehicles of their own. Every organisation choosing to switch to EVs is making a real difference – helping to clean the air we breathe and tackle the climate emergency.”

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive said:

“We are working with councils across the country to encourage businesses to make the switch to electric vehicles and we expect many more to start using electric vehicles when they experience the savings possible.

“This is a key example of how we are using designated funds to benefit the environment and communities around our roads as well as the people travelling and working on them.”

More information on the Highways England Designated Funds Plan:

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