Last week, Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman announced that there would be no funding for the long-awaited Low Carbon Car Fund.
The programme was expected to replace the Powershift grants scheme, shut down 15 months ago because it broke European funding rules, and would have provided grants of between £300 to £1,000 to buyers of cars that emit 115 g/km CO2 or less.
Executives at fleet operators’ association Acfo told Fleet News they were dismayed at the decision. Director Stewart Whyte said: ‘Acfo fears that without cash help available companies may not look to introduce low carbon vehicles to their fleets as a priority, except in a small minority of cases where corporate social responsibility outweighs all other business decisions.’
A stunned Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: ‘It sends completely the wrong message.’
Ladyman said that instead of the scheme, part of the £40 million available will be invested in a campaign to educate the public about the need to be green. He said that the Low Carbon Car Fund would have provided grants for 8,500 cars a year – less than 0.4% of the new car market, not enough to transform buying habits.
Money will also be ploughed into the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving scheme for van drivers, aimed at training 4,000 drivers on how to cut fuel use.
Support for company training on travel plans and a special green fleet review programme for fleet managers will also continue.
Bosses at Honda, which produces the low emission Civic Hybrid, said they will continue to develop such technology despite the announcement and hope further incentives will be introduced in the future.
And Nigel Underdown, head of transport advice at the Energy Saving Trust, which would have administered the scheme, said: ‘This announcement should not be interpreted as the Government not being prepared to support initiatives to reduce carbon from transport.
‘Although we are disappointed, we have received extra funding for our advisory service which will benefit fleets.’