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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 some ultra-low emissions cars 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 motoring group called the change a “big step backwards”.

The Plug-in Car Grant was introduced seven years ago, and has provided discounts to the price 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 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 rounded on the government, with RAC 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.”

The changes comes into effect on 12 November.

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