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Image credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

UK may pay drivers to replace combustion cars with EVs

It could help revitalize a pandemic-struck economy.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 7, 2020
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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 05: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales gets into his new chauffeur driven Jaguar I-PACE fully electric car following a visit to the newly refurbished 'Maiden' Yacht at HMS President on September 5, 2018 in London, England. The 'Maiden' Yacht was used by the first all-female crew to sail in the 1990 Whitbread Round the World Race in which they finished second. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The UK car market has taken a bruising due to COVID-19, like much of Europe, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be counting on electric vehicles to bring it back. The Telegraph sources (via Reuters) understand that Johnson’s team is drafting plans that would give drivers up to £6,000, or about $7,627, if they exchange their combustion engine car for an EV. The Prime Minister would tentatively announce this on July 6th as part of a broader plan to help the British economy recover as lockdown measures ease.

This would be a pragmatic move if accurate. It would theoretically give a boost to the overall British economy, and would be particularly beneficial for Jaguar, Mini and other brands that manufacture at least some of their EVs domestically. A swap incentive might even be necessary to fulfill long-term goals. The UK wants to ban sales of new combustion cars by 2035, and that may be challenging if there isn’t a thriving EV market by that point. A reward for ditching diesel and petrol could accelerate that adoption, particularly among cost-conscious buyers who may like the lower running costs of EVs but can’t justify the higher up-front prices.

There could be challenges to implementing such a plan. While the charging infrastructure is growing, it’s not clear that there are enough stations (or a sufficiently prepared electrical grid) to handle a spike in demand. That’s also assuming people are in the mood for buying cars at a time when COVID-19 remains a lingering threat. If the UK goes ahead with the idea, though, its strategy could serve as a template for other countries that want to help the environment while their car markets bounce back.

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