Fall in low-emission vehicles registered in Bedford – despite national usage soaring

The high up-front cost is still putting many people off
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There are now fewer low-emission vehicles registered to drivers in Bedford than there were a year ago, despite a surge in their use across the country.

The RAC said the high up-front cost of electric vehicles – the most popular low-emission vehicles – was still putting many people off buying them, despite their lower running costs.

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New figures from the DVLA show there 10,260 low-emission vehicles were registered in Bedford as of March 2023 – down from 133.27 the year before, but up from 139.01 in 2018.

In total, there were 114,657 vehicles registered, meaning 9% of them were officially classified as low-emission.

The figures are not an exact representation of vehicle usage, as many vehicles, including those in commercial use, may not be regularly used in the same place they are registered.

Designed to emit less than 75g of carbon dioxide from the tailpipe for every kilometre travelled, they include battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell electric vehicles.

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Across the UK, 114,000 plug-in electric vehicles and 76,000 battery electric vehicles were registered for the first time between January and March, rises of 13% and 19% respectively on the previous year.

It meant by the end of March 2023, the number of electric battery vehicles had increased by 58% in the last year to 770,000, while there were also more than 1.2 million licensed plug-in vehicles, an increase of 45%.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “While the rise in demand for electric cars has been nothing short of meteoric, we’re concerned that the relatively high up-front cost of many vehicles continues to put many people off choosing them."

He added: "For this reason, we’d like to see the Government do more to sustain new electric car sales, specifically by reintroducing a form of the previous plug-in car grant aimed solely at cheaper electric models to tempt people away from petrol and diesel models.

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"For those who regularly make longer trips or who will never be able to charge an electric car up cheaply at home, a cut to the VAT rate at public chargers from 20% to match the 5% levied on domestic would also make going electric an easier choice.”

The figures were released a week before London's high-profile ultra low emissions zone expanded to cover all London boroughs. Anyone driving a non-compliant car, van or motorbike within the zone will have to pay £12.50 a day.

They also come as new data reveals vehicle emissions-based schemes have generated more than £418 million in fees and penalty charges in England since March 2001.

Figures obtained by car manufacturer Peugeot via Freedom of Information requests show London's ULEZ accounted for £320 million of this, with the remainder split between schemes in Birmingham, Bath, Bradford and Portsmouth.

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The Transport Act 2000 requires local authorities in England to reinvest any earnings from clean air zones into the “delivery of local transport policies”.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the Government and industry had supported supported the installation of over 45,000 public charging devices, and stressed plug-in grants would continue for taxis, motorcycles, vans and trucks for at least another year.

They added: “We’ve already put more than £2 billion into helping the transition to electric vehicles, and are investing over £381 million to help deliver local charging infrastructure so people around the country can switch.

“The Government continues to support uptake of these vehicles through a range of tax measures, with industry figures finding plug-in vehicles accounted for nearly a quarter of new car sales in July.”