The Department for Transport has hit back after it was blamed by the car industry for the slowdown in sales of greener vehicles.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said this week that a sharp slowdown in sales of electric cars, plug-ins and hybrids was due to the government’s decision to cut subsidies to buyers of zero or low-emission vehicles.
With diesel sales in freefall, it said that the take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles, which last month slowed to growth of only 12 per cent, was partly responsible for a fall of more than 4 per cent in total new registrations. Sales of greener cars have been growing at between 20 per cent and 40 per cent in recent years.
Incentives to buy new green cars were cut by £1,000 last autumn to £3,500 for pure electric cars, with subsidies axed completely for hybrids, including plug-in vehicles.
The department said that the industry had known that the government was focusing its financial support on zero-emission vehicles or pure electric cars.
A spokesman said: “Record levels of ultra-low-emission vehicles on our roads show the UK is moving towards greener transport and, as the SMMT figures show, sales of new alternatively fuelled vehicles have increased. Having kick-started the early market for ultra-low-emission vehicles, the government is focusing on encouraging the take-up of the cleanest, zero-emission vehicles, backed by the £1.5 billion road-to-zero strategy.”
The SMMT said that ministers were missing the point: zero-emission vehicles account for fewer than 25,000 new car sales in a 2.5 million market, which is due in part to a lack of public high-speed charging infrastructure.