The Flemish mistrust government support for the electric car

The Flemish mistrust government support for the electric car

Flemish motorists do not believe that the government will support them when they purchase an electric car, resulting in a hesitancy to take the plunge and buy one. By 2020 the Flemish government hopes that electric cars make up 7.5 percent of all cars on the road.”The market share of the 100 percent electric car is now only 0.51 percent of the newly sold cars and a breakthrough is not imminent, says Maarten Matienko, spokesman for the Flemish mobility federation VAB.

The VAB interviewed 2,000 people in Flanders about their interest in electric cars. Today, 17 percent of Flemish people say they are interested in purchasing an electric car (including plug-in hybrids). That is more than the 14 percent in a similar survey in 2016. However, it is still much less than those interested in buying a car that runs on petrol.

Two obstacles to the purchase of an electric car are: the limited range of (affordable) models and the small supply of charging stations. Matienko sees a solution. “The car manufacturers are working on a hundred new e-cars, in different price categories. The number of (fast) charging stations is also in full expansion. These hurdles will be overcome in five to ten years.”

But according to the VAB, the biggest stumbling block is the government. It will have to win the trust of the consumer and that will only be possible with a consistent tax policy. Owners of electric cars currently pay no registration or traffic tax nor excise duty on electricity. But the individuals surveyed do not believe that this will remain so: 65 percent say they are not sure that the tax incentives will remain in place.

“The consumer has had a negative experience in that respect,” says Matienko. Today an anti-diesel policy is being implemented, characterised by excise duties and a higher traffic tax. Barely eight years ago there were still eco-subsidies for those who bought a diesel car. Even those who recently opted for a plug-in hybrid will have to pay a heavier tax bill from 2020 if the battery has insufficient capacity.

According to the Flemish Minister of Finance (and Energy), Bart Tommelein, there is “no reason to doubt" the support of the Flemish government for the e-car. “The exemption from registration tax and traffic tax applies to the entire lifespan of e-cars. And there are absolutely no plans to change that,” says Tommelein.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times

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