Ministers ignore British-made electric cars in Whitehall fleet

The Korean carmaker Kia has been the major winner in central government’s purchase of plug-in vehicles. It was responsible for an astonishing 82% of all low emission vehicles purchased by Whitehall.

According to the government, it met an interim goal of 25% of its central car fleet to be electrified.

Data obtained by the BBC shows that ministers are not doing enough to support British jobs. Only 32 of 680 plug-in cars purchased or leased to the central fleet were British-built, and none were Oxford-made electric Minis, which were stars of the London Olympics opening in 2012.

These figures show that the government is not only out of tune with the rest of economy in purchasing habits, but also its stated policy to move away from internal combustion engines.

Only 10% of electrified vehicles purchased are pure electricals. The rest are plug-in hybrids. These vehicles have a limited range of electric and are dependent on a petrol engine for longer trips. However, they are more affordable and can be bought and used to eliminate range anxiety and recharging anxiety.

The UK’s fleet and private buyers are more likely to purchase battery electric cars than plug-in hybrids, by a factor of two to three to one. This is due to tax breaks and lower running costs.

Kia is Whitehall’s biggest winner, having sold 449 £36,000 Niro plug in hybrids and 110 PS40,000 Sportsage plug-ins to the government as well as two £40,000 all electric e-Niro vehicles.

The 32 UK-built cars were procured from government by 25 Sunderland-assembled £32,000 Nissan Leafs, and seven Halewood-assembled plug in Land Rover Discovery Sports for around £51,000 each.

When asked why the government was so committed to purchasing Kia cars, and effectively cutting off British-built vehicles from the market, an official stated that price was the most important factor. The official stated that fleet managers would procure vehicles based upon operational needs and budget. They will also seek to have access to all brands of vehicle available in the UK. Public sector procurers must seek value for money through fair, open and honest competition.

John Hargreaves is the fleet general manager at Kia. He said that they have a good relationship and key factors that position Kia as a preferred supplier of the UK government in terms of emissions output, running cost, and leasing rate costs.

36 Jaguar iPace cars, which are made in Austria and retail for 72,000, were the most expensive electric splash-outs that civil servants made. They also purchased three £53,000 Korean-made Genesis GV60s and four Tesla Model 3s for 42,000 each.

The government claims that its central fleet will be 100 percent electric by 2027, following a three- to five-year replacement cycle.

The auto industry warned that although Britain has the resources, expertise and research capabilities to support the electric car revolution, it lacks the political and economic backing needed to make it a success.

According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, ministers need to respond immediately to “increasingly fierce global competition” that is being fueled by tax breaks and American and European Union Green Subsidies.

According to the industry body, the sector has “intrinsic strength” but cannot compete with the $370 million Inflation Reduction Act in America and the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan. The Treasury must respond.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, stated that Britain has a solid foundation for EV production. This is backed by low carbon energy, outstanding R&D, and a highly skilled workforce. These advantages must not be wasted. We must compete in the global race.