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France to pay $14k to buyers of electric cars

France will introduce incentive payments to get car owners to switch from diesel cars to electric cars from April.

THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT has announced it will pay people who swap their ‘old’ diesel car (more than 13 years old) for an electric car. Starting in April, the initiative will see the Government pay up to $14,505 to consumers who buy an electric car to replace an old diesel model, Energy Minister Segolene Royal told Bloomberg.

“We have to eliminate old diesel cars that are more than 13 years old and have no filters,” Royal said. Measures against these types of polluting cars will make it “harder and harder” to use them, she said.

The payment would effectively halve the cost of small electric cars, like the Renault Zoe.

Currently, the French Government and many governments in Europe charge lower taxes for diesel cars, but that the tariffs would be raised to match petrol taxes later this year with the tax on diesel being raised by 2 euro cents per litre this year.

Aligning the prices would help reduce smog, Royal said. “Air pollution is a major public health issue,” she said. “Sixty percent of the French population breathes air that isn’t healthy.”

Paris and other big French cities regularly issue warnings about air pollution caused in part by particulates from diesel fumes. Alerts in recent years have reignited debate over the taxes. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo last month announced measures aimed at phasing out diesel vehicles in the city by about 2020.

But Royal has stopped short of saying that diesel cars should be banned altogether, because most modern diesels are return better mileage and are less polluting than their petrol equivalents.

“We have to be realistic because there are industries that make diesel cars, there are jobs involved” Royal said.

What about Australia? Despite car makers introducing electric cars here there are no incentives for buyers to invest in green (but often more expensive) technology. New BMW boss, Marc-Heinrich Werner expressed his frustration with the Australian Government’s lack of enthusiasm for green vehicles, or encouraging owners to buy them – incentives that are taken for granted in other countries.

Naturally, Mr Werner’s concerns stem from the launch of BMW’s stunning i8, the first plug-in hybrid to wear the BMW badge, and the i3, a small car designed from the ground up to use an electric drive system.

The i8 is sure to sell on its own merits, despite its $299,000 (plus ORC) price tag. By any measure, it is a stunning sports car regardless of driveline. The combination of BMW Twin Power Turbo and BMW eDrive technology plus intelligent energy management produce 266kW and up to 570Nm. Zero to 100km comes up in just 4.4 seconds. Range on electric power alone is up to 35km, with a combined range under everyday conditions of 600km.

The i3, on the other hand, would probably benefit from some government tax breaks. This four-seat five-door hatch uses a 124kW/250Nm BMW eDrive electric motor, driving the rear wheels. The range is a useful 160km in comfort mode and up to 200km in Eco Pro+ mode. One hundred km/h comes up in 7.2 seconds and top speed is limited to 150km/h. An optional 650cc two-cylinder engine is used solely to recharge the batteries and extends range to 300km. Like other vehicles in this class, sales will probably be slow, taking into consideration the not-insubstantial $63,900 price ($69,900 with Range Extender).

The frustration of companies trying to promote low emissions vehicles and get them onto the market at a price and with incentives that will encourage take-up is completely understandable. When asked by Practical Motoring about the difficulties, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Nissan all admitted that trying to get the government on side was like banging their heads against a brick wall.

Toyota’s Tony Cramb said that in his opinion, they were better off putting their time and energies into more rewarding projects. Spokespersons for Nissan and Mitsubishi expressed similar sentiments. Perhaps a little surprisingly, Lexus CEO Sean Hanley takes a different point of view. “We believe alternative fuel and low emissions vehicles need to sell on their own merits,” he said when questioned.

“People need to buy these vehicles because they offer a better value proposition and a worthwhile driving experience, rather than because the prices has been reduced through government subsidies or incentives.” Currently, Lexus has a sales split of 60% petrol and 40% hybrid, a situation Hanley bleieves could reach 50:50 in the not-too-distant future.

Would you be more likely to invest in an electric car, if the government provided incentives?


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober