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Government-subsidised plug-in cars may never have been charged

November 10, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dave Ward/Philip Bratby/Ian Magness


Well, I did tell you so!



Tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) bought with generous government grants may be burning as much fuel as combustion-engine cars.

​Data compiled for the BBC suggests that such vehicles in corporate fleets averaged just 40 miles per gallon (mpg), when they could have done 130.

Many drivers may never have unwrapped their charging cables, The Miles Consultancy said.

Subsidies for new PHEVs were recently scrapped, after seven years.

The plug-in grant was introduced in 2011, gifting buyers up to £4,500 off new cars.

The incentive helped the UK become the biggest market for PHEVs in Europe.

The majority of the tens of thousands of eligible vehicles sold were bought by company fleets, including more than 70% of the 37,000 plug-in hybrids sold so far in 2018.

But data from The Miles Consultancy, a Cheshire firm which advises 300 blue-chip companies on fuel management, reveals that many businesses simply used the grant to save on buying regular cars.

Image caption When regularly charged, PHEVs can achieve more than 130 miles per gallon

Mileage records from 1,500 models, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo vehicles, showed an average real-world mpg of 39.27, against an average manufacturer advertised mpg of 129.68.

Figures for 2,432 hybrids – including non plug-in varieties – showed an average real-world mpg of 49.06, still vastly lower than the potential range.

"There are some examples where employees aren’t even charging these vehicles up," said Paul Hollick, The Miles Consultancy’s managing director.

"The charge cables are still in the boot, in a cellophane wrapper, while the company and the employee are going in and out of petrol stations, paying for all of this additional fuel.

This practice, he added, was "ridiculous".

As I wrote last month:

It is true that many drivers may opt instead for plug-in hybrids, but this raises the question as to whether they will simply continue to fill up with petrol, instead of plugging in. If so, it rather defeats the objective of the government’s policy.


The BBC is vexed about the waste of government subsidies, but this issue underlines how such subsidies undermine the market and distort competition.

It is also a reminder of the very real obstacles facing drivers with EVs

  1. HotScot permalink
    November 10, 2018 11:44 am

    A cunning governmental ploy relative to this immediately springs to mind. The wacko, rabidly green politicians will redouble their efforts to have even hybrids banned from our roads by 2040 leaving us with only pure EV’s. Doubtless the rational behind it will be that drivers will have no choice but to plug their vehicles in if they are to move them.

    • keith permalink
      November 10, 2018 11:55 am

      Sorry, I don’t think sole EV’s will ever come to pass. As highlighted a couple of days ago in this blog, with nuclear energy disappearing and then closure of coal stations, this country will hardly have enough generating power for existing electric needs let alone millions of EV’s. However, what one can say, this is just another Government f*** up along with everything else they do. How have we managed to get so many incompetent MPs and civil service bureaucrats?

      • November 10, 2018 12:38 pm

        MPs – because there’s not a ‘None of the Above’ box on the ballot paper
        Bureaucrats – because risk averse people avoid the commercial world in case their incompetence is found out. There was a time when these people got a lower salary for having a sinecure but got a good pension and a ‘gong’ on retirement to compensate for their ‘sacrifice’. Then Blair’s lot increased their salaries to “match the corporate world”, but without the concomitant extra risks and of course their final salary, unfunded pensions shot up too! And they still get their gongs. Cocooned in their ivory towers they have never had to create any wealth so never understand that it has to be earned before it’s spent. They see taxpayers as a money tap which is always switched on; thus their ready use of the phrase “Government money”. They say they’re cost conscious but that discipline is totally absent from their DNA.

      • November 10, 2018 2:23 pm

        Devonblueboy. My civil service salary and all of those in middle and junior management rarely if ever got an above inflation rise in the Blair years. As a lifelong Tory and it pains me to say this, the very top ranks did see a substantial rise but that dated back to years when Maggie and Major were in power. Having said that, what I did notice was that the salaries in all the various quangos that sprang up from the 90s onwards, always had better pay rates than the traditional civil Service departments.

      • John permalink
        November 10, 2018 8:11 pm

        We chose to elect them

  2. November 10, 2018 11:48 am

    No surprises here. Once again the ‘Government;, a.k.a. London based liberals with zero knowledge of the real world, screws up. They distorted the market to get people to buy diesels on the spurious CO2 argument when it had been known since the 1970s that diesels pumped out noxious particles and then had to backtrack into distorting the market to favour hybrids!! But never mind, all those clever bureaucrats will still keep their highly remunerated positions thanks to the taxes of the great unwashed who lost money by trusting their advice. Cavet emptor.

  3. Dave Ward permalink
    November 10, 2018 11:48 am

    “Burning as much fuel as combustion-engine cars”

    They ARE combustion-engine cars, that also have a battery & motor. If the Beeb had simply said “Conventional” cars, I might not have minded, but they are never ones to miss an opportunity to slag off anything using fossil fuels. “Combustion” has the same sinister overtones as using pictures of power station emissions carefully taken to make harmless water vapour look like black smoke…

  4. November 10, 2018 12:54 pm

    The solution is to take out all the unnecessary batteries and motors, thus reducing the weight of the vehicles, increasing their fuel consumption and reducing wear and tear. After all, nobody with a company hybrid is going to use their own paid-for electricity to charge up the batteries when they can charge the cost of the petrol/diesel to the company. Perhaps our politicians are stupid enough to subsidise hybrids with the option of omitting the battery part. They could be called second generation hybrids.

    • Curious George permalink
      November 10, 2018 3:24 pm

      Is a hybrid with a government subsidy cheaper to buy than just a car?

      • Ian permalink
        November 11, 2018 8:42 am

        No, but it’s a good company car option for “benefit in kind” allowance and you don’t have to prove you’ve achieved the low CO2 emissions promised.

  5. November 10, 2018 12:54 pm

    This practice, he added, was “ridiculous”. Huh? makes perfect sense to me, why bother with an inconvenient gimmick, when the speed and ease of filling-up exists.

  6. mikewaite permalink
    November 10, 2018 1:03 pm

    Another example of the total incompetence of this Govt whenever “green” issues are concerned is highlighted by the article in today’s Telegraph concerning smart meters and domestic solar panels :

    -“Households with solar panels risk being overcharged on their energy bills if they have a smart meter fitted, it can be revealed.
    Some have seen their energy bills more than treble after smart meters have been installed. This is because, while the two devices are capable of working together, energy firms say they are unable to access correct information about excess energy being generated by people’s solar panels.
    It means nearly a million households in Britain with solar panels on their homes could face billing chaos or being excluded from the Government’s roll out of smart meters.
    Two of Britain’s biggest energy companies, EON and NPower, are refusing to install smart meters in people’s homes if they have solar panels.
    Meanwhile other firms, including British Gas, are fitting smart meters into homes with solar panels, But this has resulted in billing issues for some customers, who have ended up having their smart meters removed.”-

    To be fair the faults probably have to be shared between the energy companies and the Govt department of energy, neither of which has obviously done sufficient research into potential problems. But really has there ever been an administration so incompetent (says this baffled and exasperated lifelong Tory voter).

    • Dave Ward permalink
      November 10, 2018 4:05 pm

      “Two of Britain’s biggest energy companies, EON and NPower, are refusing to install smart meters in people’s homes if they have solar panels”

      Does this mean that having solar panels installed will stop E.ON constantly hassling me to have smart meters fitted?

  7. November 10, 2018 1:23 pm

    “Data compiled for the BBC suggests that such vehicles in corporate fleets averaged just 40 miles per gallon (mpg), when they could have done 130.”

    When they could have done 130! Typical BBC propaganda, just providing a platform for anything “green”, the 130 figure for mpg comes from a standard assumption about how such cars are driven and recharged, basically between every trip, with a standard number of km on pure petrol/diesel at the end of running fully electric.

    This standard mpg is for woke-greens, desperate to recharge their vehicles often in order to save the planet. Sorry, that obviously does not apply to most sales reps.

    • November 10, 2018 1:39 pm

      They could have done ∞mpg if they kept the tank empty. Just like my bike does ∞mpg.

      • John permalink
        November 10, 2018 8:04 pm

        The technology to do high current, no direct connection, fast charges may be a long while away
        Most sensible people are moving away from Lithium Ion Battery technology
        Dyson being one, for his new EV

    • Ian permalink
      November 11, 2018 8:45 am

      As a reader of second-hand Auto Express magazine, I can confirm that 40mpg isn’t out of the way. They may even be using the figure from a letter sent to my MP on the subject!

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 10, 2018 5:57 pm

    . . . tens of thousands of eligible vehicles sold were bought by company fleets, . . .

    company fleets ???
    When a company or agency of government buys autos by the dozens, who drives them and who refuels them?
    The local university has a “car pool” (including vans and trucks). Say the ‘earth science’ department takes students on a field trip in vans. In the morning the units are filled with fuel and there is a gasoline station credit card provided, if needed. Late in the day, or after regular hours for the ‘car pool’ workers, a van with a nearly empty tank will get parked in the lot. Next morning the workers service the vehicle and refuel it. Repeat. Day after day.

    What is being described in this report seems to be mis-management by the company or agency.

    Note: There are wireless recharging stations for cell phones. One simply puts the phone on the “appliance” and charging begins. It is not a great conceptual leap to see such technology applied to EVs and hybrids.

    • November 10, 2018 6:52 pm

      Most company cars in the UK are individually allocated to drivers rather than pooled. The driver fills up, and reclaims the cost, usually on a cost per mile basis.

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        November 11, 2018 1:10 am

        Do they also get reimbursed for charging at home?
        If not, I would not charge at home either.
        Also, I suspect some folks are not able to charge an EV at home.
        Such instances should have been filtered by the office assigning the autos.
        If the company can’t pay for the charge or the person can’t charge, the car provided should be a regular one.
        Unless all this is sorted out, it is too soon to claim the situation is “ridiculous”.

      • Ian permalink
        November 11, 2018 8:47 am

        Most companies I worked for required me to pay for my private mileage, so there’s an incentive to “save” battery energy for that purpose. Added to the benefit-in-kind perk, there’s no wonder hybrids are attractive as company cars.

  9. Coeur de Lion permalink
    November 10, 2018 6:03 pm

    How many hybrids are privately owned and get charged at home? They are rather expensive for what they are and I guess the removal of the taxpayers subsidy will have knocked the market. Are there any numbers?

  10. John permalink
    November 10, 2018 8:01 pm

    Many people are perplexed at the waste of poor peoples taxes, subsidising rich peoples Chelsea Tractors
    The same people are subsidising rich peoples solar panels and wind turbines
    Let’s not even get started on the so called ‘Smart Meters’
    In years to come we will look back and regret all this abject stupidity

  11. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 10, 2018 8:04 pm

    Talking of green initiatives where the pushers can’t see the obvious loopholes/problems.

    It’s not only the well documented problem with cavity wall insulation causing damp, but external insulation slabs too.

  12. John permalink
    November 10, 2018 8:29 pm

    When will the root cause of the Grenfell Tragedy be exposed
    Probably never, in Public Inquiries the innocent are punished

    Now why would they put a load of duff cladding on previous buildings and it was not for’aesthetics’

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      November 11, 2018 12:05 am

      The planning documentation submitted to Kensington & Chelsea BC is quite clear: the scheme to clad Grenfell Tower was double plus good for saving the planet, beating the building standards requirements for insulation, even if insolation of some windows would leave flats overheated in summer: this was the main motivation for the project. The Building Regs (Part L) and the EU Directives are less clear, but AFAICS the materials used met the regulations, which had failed to require proper fire tests in representative conditions for tall buildings. In sum, in my view, the regulations sacrificed safety to the Green god, with the EU bearing a large chunk of the blame. I have written about this at greater length citing chapter and verse at various places not long after the fire.

  13. Athelstan permalink
    November 10, 2018 9:28 pm

    ooooh lookee here, it’s that orrible old ghastly green ghoul ghostie and the twins ‘the law of uncosted, egregiously unmonitored subsidy and his siamese matey unintended consequences.

  14. M E permalink
    November 11, 2018 12:38 am

    Do the hybrid car users in Britain all have garages ?
    Do all garages in Britain have the kind of connection to the electricity provider which actually could power a car battery?
    I would think that the only thing which can be plugged in in most garages is an electric drill. or similar tool for the home handyman/woman

    • November 11, 2018 11:38 am

      Good point, outdoor electrics tend to be only lighting circuits, but that may be sufficient for slow charging over 10 hours.

  15. Ian permalink
    November 11, 2018 9:05 am

    One of my beefs about the development of new car technology, including combustion engined, is that the next iteration of a model or its replacement is that it has to be bigger and more powerful.

    Who needs 300bhp? In the good old days of the Vauxhall Cavalier, I managed to do over 100000 miles, twice, in cars with 57bhp and then 75 bhp. How on earth did I manage it?

    The latest Tesla Model S is fully electric and has a realistic range of over 300 miles but has a 362bhp power unit (and costs an “affordable” £67K). That’s a lot more than enough to drag it’s enormous weight about. What if the power output was lowered to, say, 150bhp? Would that bring a commensurate improvement in range? Same for the smaller ones. If the government is serious about reducing emissions, surely small has to be the objective. Think what the energy demand decrease and road capacity increase would be if everybody ditched their 4x4s and bought Leaf-like cars, not to mention the school run reduction in congestion.

    I wouldn’t mind some degree of support for SMALL electric cars to encourage development, but object to helping finance large, overpowered luxury models. At least the government has started to make the right noises about subsidies for hybrids.

    Got a bee in my bonnet? Me?

  16. November 11, 2018 6:34 pm

    So if for some strange reason you decide to buy a secondhand PHEV, you have no way of telling how many of its miles used the engine and how many used the battery?

    • Ian permalink
      November 12, 2018 8:44 am

      I suppose it could be established via on-board diagnostics, but a bigger worry for me would be the remaining battery life.

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