The price of electric and hybrid cars is set to rise after the government announced changes to the financial incentives for buying greener vehicles.
Grants for cars which meet the toughest CO2 restrictions will be cut from £4,500 to £3,500, while discounts in two other categories will be scrapped.
The Department of Transport (DoT) said the move would affect the purchase of the next 35,000 of the cleanest cars.
But the RAC and AA motoring groups condemned the move as a backward step.
The Plug-in Car Grant was introduced seven years ago, and has provided discounts for the purchase of more than 160,000 new ultra-low emissions vehicles.
The DoT said the grant had helped the plug-in hybrid market become established, and the government now wanted to focus support on zero emission models such as pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
The changes, being introduced from 12 November, come despite government plans to remove petrol and diesel cars from UK roads by 2050, forcing all motorists to own electrified models.
Ultra-low emission vehicles are placed into three categories:
- Category 1: CO₂ emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles
- Category 2: CO₂ emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles
- Category 3: CO₂ emissions of 50 to 75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles.
The government said the cut in the support for Category 1 cars to £3,500 reflected recent reductions in the price of electric vehicles.
But motoring groups condemned the changes, saying it would leave the government struggling to meet its emissions reduction targets.
The RAC’s head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes saying the move was “a major blow to anyone hoping to go green with their next vehicle choice”.
He said: “Of particular concern, some popular zero emission capable plug-in hybrid models will lose their plug-in car grant altogether.
“With up-front costs still a huge barrier for those hoping to switch to an electric vehicle, this move from the government is a big step backwards and is in stark contrast to countries like Norway where generous tax incentives have meant that it has one of the highest ownership levels of ultra-low emission vehicles of anywhere in the world.”
And Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “The government wants to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars, but scrapping grants for low emission cars may well stall their progress.
“This announcement will simply put more drivers off from buying greener cars.”