By Rory Reynolds
CHINESE firms are planning to sell electric cars in Scotland for as little as £5,000.
Imports expected to arrive next year are set to slash the price of green cars, many of which are sold for around £20,000.
And currently many electric models have a range of just 60-70 miles, making them a luxury to all but the most eco-conscious drivers.
However, many of the new generation vehicles, made by firms like BYD, will top the 100-mile barrier, with some reaching a range of 200 miles.
This comes as Ford announced on Thursday that they would make electric versions of all of their models, including the Focus, by 2012.
Brian Gilda, chairman of Peoples Ford chain, said that the models being would go from being unaffordable to being cheaper than conventional cars.
He said: “We are looking at having electric cars on sale in about 18 months.
“We have made contacts with various companies and are assessing our options.
“But there is no point in bringing new electric vehicles into the British market and attempting to sell them for £20,000.
“The price has got to make buyers say ‘Wow – I can get something as green as that which can also do 150 miles.”
In 2009 alternatively fuelled cars, which include electric vehicles, doubled the market share to 1.2 per cent.
There is expected to be greater interest in electric cars when the UK government offers cash incentives of up to a quarter of the car’s cost next January.
Gilda, who runs six dealerships across central Scotland, predicts that electric cars will make up 5-10 per cent of the market over the next decade.
He added: “A key factor is increasing the range of electric cars.
“The 60-70-mile limit of currently available models is no good – 150-200 miles is required.”
The Build Your Dream car from China is expected to cost around £5,000, with models ranging from super-minis to Focus and Astra-sized family cars, rather than large saloons.
Green transport groups have said that the price of electric vehicles is the main issue, with electric models often costing much more than petrol engine cars.
A spokesman for the Environmental Transport Association said that models like the electric version of the new Citreon C1 would be around twice the cost of the petrol version.
He said: “To pay that much you have got to have pretty strong environmental convictions.
“Range will also have to increase. For a car to be able to travel 100 miles would be a psychological marker to give drivers confidence.
“The Chinese market has a reputation for being cheap and cheerful, but that is going to change very quickly, with quality improving.
“The strength of manufacturing there is its lower cost. The watershed moment will be when electric cars are in showrooms alongside other models.”
China has become the test ground for electric cars as many of the population have never driven petrol in the first place, removing any psychological issues.
It is also widely regarded that a maximum of 60mph is not a problem for drivers in China’s busy city streets.
Motoring groups have said that the low cost vehicles could encourage local authorities to invest in electric charging points.
President of the AA, Edmund King, said that the infrastructure of charging points is crucial to encouraging people to go electric.
He said: “There must be much careful thought and appropriate investment so that both the cars and re-charging structure can be developed to be available at the same time.”