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U.K. Goal: Consign Gasoline, Diesel Cars 'To History' By 2050

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Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid prototype in London, U.K.

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid prototype in London, U.K.

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UK government proposals could extend current tax benefits for electric cars to the end of the decade, with further plans for a full market of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2050.

Ministers have suggested the current benefits package could be extended to end the current reluctance of UK drivers to opt for electric vehicles.

According to The Telegraph, just 4,000 or so UK drivers have made the jump to electric vehicles, despite enticing benefits. A UK plug-in car grant slashes the price of electric vehicles by £5,000, while all plug-in vehicles benefit from free vehicle tax under the country's current CO2 emissions-based system.

They're also eligible for exemption from London's congestion charging scheme, also CO2 based and recently tightened to just 75 g/km--ruling out all current non-plug-in hybrids and low-emission diesels.

It's vehicles like these new, ultra-low emission diesels that electric cars must compete against in the UK. While the fuel costs more than gasoline and certainly more than electricity, headline MPG figures, exemptions from vehicle tax based on CO2 and accessible pricing means many won't even consider an electric vehicle--though the usual range anxiety issues and lack of public charging facilities also puts off consumers.

The government intends to spend £500m ($780m) on encouraging Ultra Low Emission Vehicle technology over the next few years, with plans including a £10m ($15.6m) competition to invent a long-life battery, a "hydrogen highway" refueling network and more electric charging posts, both on-street and in parking lots.

“Our vision is that by 2050 almost every car and van will be an ultra low emission vehicle with the UK at the forefront of their design, development and manufacture," UK roads minister Norman Baker told The Telegraph.

It's a more realistic vision than that suggested by the country's Liberal Democrat party last month, that's for sure.

The 'Lib Dem' party, in a coalition with the existing Conservative government, suggested in a policy paper that "by 2040, only ultra-low carbon vehicles will be permitted on UK roads for non-freight purposes". The paper's wording made no concession for existing vehicles, suggesting they could simply be outlawed.

Pouring public money into alternative-fuel vehicles is as contentious politically in the UK as it is in the US right now, but plug-in and potential plug-in car owners will be pleased to know their vehicles will remain inexpensive to run for quite some time to come.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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