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Plug-in car grant rush likely as deadline approaches

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Fleets and leasing companies ordering plug-in cars could be left thousands of pounds out of pocket if they don’t apply for the grant at the same time.

Applicants currently receive up to £5,000 off a plug-in car, but the Government has announced that the grant will fall by up to £2,500 from March 1.

That gives the fleet and leasing industry less than two months to take advantage of the more generous rates and, according to Holdcroft Motor Group, means it is essential they understand when their application is registered.

“It goes on the grant submission date, not the vehicle order date,” said Malcolm Pearson, Holdcroft group fleet director.

“Ordering a vehicle – even if that it is today or the last the day of February – does not mean you get the grant at the existing rate.”

The dealer group, which was crowned fleet dealer of the year at last year’s Fleet News Awards, processed almost 2,000 grant applications during 2015.

“We still have daily issues getting grant forms completed today, so it’s going to be hectic in February and I suspect a lot of disappointed fleets come March when they don’t get the quotes they thought they had signed up for.”

The Government revealed last month that it was introducing two new plug-in grant rates.

Vehicles with a zero emission range of more than 70 miles (category 1) will benefit from a grant of £4,500, while vehicles with a shorter zero emission range (category 2 and 3) such as plug-in hybrid vehicles, with a petrol or diesel engine, will receive just £2,500.

A price cap will also be introduced. Category 2 and 3 models with a list price of more than £60,000 will not be eligible for the grant, but all category one vehicles with a zero emission range of more than 70 miles will be eligible for the full £4,500 grant.

As well as ensuring grant application forms are submitted before March 1 to receive the more generous grant, Pearson told Fleet News that fleets should also consider allowing drivers to order vehicles early.    

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), which manages the plug-in car grant on behalf of the Government, said that, provided vehicles are registered within nine months of the claim being entered onto the plug-in car grant portal by the dealership, the grant amount is fixed at the level advertised on the OLEV webpage at that point in time (currently 35% of the price up to a cap of £5,000).

“Orders can be accepted by dealers right up to the last day of February, 2016 at the current support level, subject to having the grant forms,” explained Pearson.

“This is the case even if the vehicle lead time is up to eight months away and they do not have a chassis number or confirmed build slot.

“All they will need is your order, with end-user customer details and the completed forms to post on the portal.”

OLEV says that the only way the grant amount would not be honoured is if the vehicle takes longer than nine months to be delivered. 

For fleets and leasing companies applying for the plug-in car grant after February 29, OLEV has said that the grant will be maintained under the new regime until March 2017 (contrary to the Government’s initial announcement of 2018), or until 40,000 sales of category 1 vehicles, and 45,000 combined sales of categories 2 and 3, with both totals including vehicles registered under the existing regime.

As of last month, 23,000 claims had been submitted for category 1 vehicles and 28,000 for categories 2 and 3 – 51,000 in total, of which half were made in 2015 alone.

With plug-in registrations rising exponentially and a flurry of eleventh hour applications expected, that could mean the new plug-in car grant is reviewed just a few months after it is launched.

The plug-in van grant of up to £8,000 remains unchanged.

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