Nationwide road pricing would replace fuel duty if the government’s electric car revolution is a success, it is feared.
Ministers have unveiled a £250m plan, due to start in 2011, that would see incentives of up to £5000 for consumers to buy electric cars.
But the Treasury currently makes an estimated £22bn from fuel duty and £5bn from road tax (from which electric cars are exempt), and it will want to recoup lost revenue.
AA representative Paul Watters told Autocar: “Fuel duty is a big sum overall and we cannot bury our heads in the sand and expect a free lunch. If electric cars become mainstream then the government will make up the lost money with road pricing.”
The government also faces a string of problems that will need to be addressed if the scheme is to take off; one issue is how to recycle or dispose of the batteries on a large scale.
Professor Nick Vaughan, head of automotive engineering at Cranfield University, warned that the current recycling system will not be able to cope and could take years to develop.
“It doesn’t look good from a recycling point of view,” he said. “It’s okay with small batteries for mobile phones, but when you scale up for cars it becomes a big problem and we simply don’t have the recycling infrastructure in place at the moment.
“You would need to develop new technology and throw a lot of money at it; I doubt the government can do this by 2011.”