Dealer to sell electric cars for shockingly low prices
A CHINESE electric car revolution is heading for Scotland, bringing cut-price green motoring to the roads.
One of the country's leading motor dealers is planning to sell vehicles from the Far East at a fraction of the price of current electric versions.
A new generation of models is being developed that will extend the range of electric vehicles to above the 100-mile barrier.
Brian Gilda, chairman of the Peoples Ford chain, said the Chinese models would, unlike many electric vehicles currently on the market, be cheaper than conventional cars. He suggested buyers could drive away an emissions-free vehicle for little more than 5,000.
The move comes as the introduction of electric cars into Britain gathers pace. On Thursday, Ford became the latest manufacturer to announce all-electric versions of its models, including the Focus in 2012.
Although from next January the UK government is to encourage more drivers to buy electric, with cash incentives of up to a quarter of the cost of models, most are still priced above conventional petrol and diesel versions.
Gilda, who has six dealerships across central Scotland, said: "We are looking at having electric cars on sale in about 18 months.
"We have made contacts with various companies and are assessing our options. But there is no point in bringing new electric vehicles into the British market and attempting to sell them for 20,000. The price has got to make potential buyers say 'Wow – I can get something as green as that which can also do 150 miles'."
Gilda predicts electric cars will account for 5-10 per cent of the market over the next decade as motorists continue to select, for environmental and financial reasons, smaller models with reduced emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Last year, alternatively fuelled vehicles, including electric cars, doubled their market share to 1.2 per cent.
Gilda added: "A key factor is increasing the range of electric cars. The 60-70 mile limit of currently available models is no good – 150-200 miles is required."
Gilda's timeframe will also allow plans to install more public electric charge points in Scotland's cities to gather pace.
Although he declined to say which models he would order or their likely price tags, he said the three and four-door cars he planned to sell would be unlikely to be currently available in the UK and would be cheaper than conventional models. The cheapest petrol-engine cars cost around 5,000.
Green transport groups said cutting prices and improving range was critical. According to the Environmental Transport Association, some models such as the forthcoming electric version of the Citron C1 would be around twice the cost of the cheapest petrol version.
A spokesman said: "To pay that much you have got to have pretty strong environmental convictions.
"Range will also have to increase. For a car to be able to travel 100 miles would be a psychological marker to give drivers confidence.
The Chinese market has a reputation for being cheap and cheerful, but that is going to change very quickly, with quality improving.
"We expect the future of electric cars to come from there because of the level of demand from people trading up from bicycles and electric bicycles.
"The strength of manufacturing there is its lower cost. The watershed moment will be when electric cars are in showrooms alongside other models.
"Many more models will be arriving, which will help because lack of choice has been an issue."
Companies leading the Chinese market include BYD – Build Your Dreams – which was founded by entrepreneur Wang Chuan-Fu, who at the age of 43 is now one of China's richest men.
The Suzhou Company is also building a range of low-cost, mini-size electric cars with names such as Happy Prince.
China is the test ground for electric cars because two-thirds of its increasingly wealthy car-buying population have never driven petrol models and so do not have psychological issues with driving electric vehicles. Also, as most cars in China are driven in congested cities, a top speed of 60mph is not perceived as a problem.
Western faith in the Chinese electric car market has been displayed by high-profile investors such as Warren Buffett, who has ploughed 200 million into BYD Auto, which plans to become the world's biggest car maker within a few years.
Motoring groups in Scotland said they hoped low-cost electric vehicles with a greater range would stimulate government and council efforts to provide more publicly available charging points.
There are still very few charging points across Scotland, although some have been included in new shopping centre developments. Glasgow council is planning to set up a network of 40 this year.
The Automobile Association warned that points must keep pace with demand. President Edmund King said: "There must be much careful thought and appropriate investment so that both the cars and recharging structure can be developed to be available at the same time."
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