NGC's guide to plug-in grant changes

Now that changes to the UK Government's Plug-in Car Grant and Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme have come into place and everything has settled down, Next Green Car has taken a look at what the market has done to react. This guide will explain what it means now to buy a plug-in car in the UK and charge it at home.

Before the changes came into effect, there were predictions that different manufacturers would offer prices with varying degrees of discount to customers. Some could have passed on all of the reduction in funding to customers, others absorbed some of the price change with buyers picking up the rest, and a few able to bang the drum loudly by absorbing all of the extra cost themselves.

Unfortunately, companies have passed on the cut in grants directly to customers who now pay more for both their cars and home charge points than in February 2016. It must be said that this is hardly unexpected or unfair considering that margins are tight and the car manufacturers and charge point installers have businesses to run rather than charities.

It must be remembered too that the grants were effectively paid to the manufacturer rather than the customer - with buyers quoted an on-the-road (OTR) price for cars, and fully fitted cost for charge points, subject to the grant.

However, there did seem to be an opportunity for someone to make mount a PR coup and capture a large share of customers by absorbing some of the grant cuts themselves. It hasn't happened though, so we have rounded up what cuts in funding have been made, and what effect that has had.

To start with, the PiCG (Plug-in Car Grant) previously saw £5,000 taken off the cost of an electric vehicle. Now it offers a £4,500 reduction for electric and range-extended electric cars of any price, and £2,500 for plug-in hybrids that cost less than £60,000. This does simplify the scheme somewhat and there are certain electric range and maximum emissions requirements to be met, but further details can be found here.

The EVHS is simpler to explain the changes for, as funding has been reduced from £700 towards the cost of installing a charging point at a plug-in car buyer's home, to £500. There is a limit of up to 75 per cent of the total cost, though this remains from the previous grant specifications.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Looking at costs, all the best selling plug-in vehicles have seen the OTR price remain the same - which means that buyers will need to spend either £500, £2,500, or £5,000 more than they would have done before Tuesday 1st March. The likes of Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV is the most interesting case since, before the PiCG changes, comparable trim levels cost the same as a diesel model.

This was a selling point for Mitsubishi, and one that was both brave to set-up with the first generation, and also to continue on to the second iteration. It paid off in a big way though with the Outlander PHEV the best selling plug-in car on British roads, despite being on sale around two and a half years less than Nissan's Leaf, the second best selling model.

It surpassed all sales expectations for Mitsubishi, given the company a presence that they could only have dreamt of - and provides a base for continued growth in new plug-in SUVs.

Now though, the Outlander PHEV range starts at £31,749 including grant - which is still a lot of efficient car, with low running costs, for the money - while the Outlander diesel starts at £29,249. It will be interesting to see whether sales will dip after the grant changes, though Mitsubishi is confident that the Outlander PHEV still represents good value for money and predicts sales to continue strongly.

Pure EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and VW e-Golf have been hit far less and are all £500 more than they were last month. The increase represents a very small percentage of the outright cost and electric vehicle sales are expected to continue at similar rates with the reduced grant predicted to have almost no effect.

Popular PHEVs including the VW Golf GTE, Audi A3 e-tron and Mercedes C350e all mirror Mitsubishi in being £2,500 more expensive than previously. Prices start at £31,495, £33,190 and £35,770 respectively now. These models could see private sales hit a little but, since they make excellent company cars with the tax breaks and low running costs, supply is still expected to struggle to cope with demand.

Those models that have been worst hit are the likes of Volvo's XC90 T8 TwinEngine, which cost £5,000 more after the grant changes because of the £60,000 upper threshold. Prices now start at £60,455 for the large Volvo, rather than £55,455 that it would have cost in February - an increase of more than eight per cent.

Again, business sales will lessen the impact of its price increase, though private buyers are likely to consider the costs more carefully. The entry level Momentum trim costs £46,250 for the D5 diesel and £49,700 for the T6 petrol. A difference of around £5,000-10,000 extra for the faster, cleaner and more frugal T8 TwinEngine model previously looks far better than the £10,000-£15,000 premium now - despite the T8 being an excellent model and the best of the range.

Rolec home charging point

When it comes to charging your car at home, because of the larger costs and grants available for cars, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) has fared comparatively better since the changes have come into place. Like the vehicle manufacturers though, margins are tight and so the extra cost has been passed on to the customer.

Getting precise costs to quote for the purchase and installation of a charging point at home can be tricky, since there are a number of factors involved in determining the price. However, the likes of Rolec, Pod Point and Chargemaster do offer a "from" price which gives you a good guide as to how much the units will cost.

Rolec offers the cheapest unit at £299 for a 3.6kW home charger, and the same price for a 7.2kW fast charger. This includes installation and VAT, along with the presumption that the buyer qualifies under the EVHS guidelines.

Pod Point and Chargemaster have very similar figures to each other at £390 and £395 respectively - both for 3.6kW units including all costs such as installation and VAT under the EVHS. Chargemaster does advertise a monthly payment option too which involves the same total cost but sees buyers pay a £59 deposit followed by £28 per month for a year.

There are other aspects to take into account too. There are tethered or socketed units available, depending on what you need. If you have a new EV and expect to own it for some time - or another EV with the same type of charging socket - it might be better to get a tethered unit so that the cable is always there attached to the point, rather than having to fish the cable out from the car. Alternatively, the socketed units offer greater flexibility and are more futureproof as the car's lead plugs straight in, no matter what model of EV is parked up.

Faster charging - typically at 7.2kW - units are often available too, while there are also design aspects, warranties, customer support and lockable points to consider. It is also worth noting that many plug-in car manufacturers have agreed partnerships with recommended installers. Pod Point for example, is recommended by the likes of Volkswagen and Volvo, while Renault has a partnership with Chargemaster.

These tend to offer customers easy access to information but can result in deals too. Buyers of the Renault Zoe for example can still get a free 7kW home charger when they buy a new car, so it is worth asking, when enquiring about new plug-in cars, to see if you can save a few hundred pounds - effectively off the cost of fuelling your new vehicle.

For more in-depth advice to buying a plug-in car and charging it at home, take a look at the guide in the electric cars section of the website.

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:11th Mar 2016

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