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UK: Here’s £5,000 -- go and buy an electric car

  Motorists will be offered up to £5,000 (about $7400) from 2011 to encourage them to buy electric or hybrid cars to promote low-carbon transport over the next five years under a new government plan.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced the initiative in Scotland as part of a £250 million scheme to cut emissions and at the same time help the struggling motor industry.

“Cutting road transport CO2 emissions is a key element to tackling climate change,” said Hoon. “Less than 0.1% of the UK’s 26 million cars are electric, so there is a huge untapped potential to reduce emissions. The scale of incentives we’re announcing today will mean that an electric car is a real option for motorists.”

Drivers will receive between £2,000 and £5,000 towards buying their first electric and plug-in hybrid cars when they hit the showrooms in 2011. Electric cars cost an average of £12,000, ($17,800) but go up to over £80,000 ($119,000) for high-performance models.

The plan also sets aside £20 million for charging points and infrastructure to develop a network of what the government calls “electric car cities.” Last week, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced a plan to introduce thousands of charging points across the capital.

A national demonstration project will be rolled out, giving some 200 motorists in the UK the opportunity to drive a cutting-edge car and give feedback to the industry. “We want the British motor industry to be a leader in the low carbon future, and government must direct and support this, through what I call new industrial activism,” Mandelson said.

The two ministers were planning later on Thursday to drive a new Mini-E electric vehicle in Dunfermline in Scotland in a demonstration of the technology available. (Reuters)