EV grant spotlight on Peugeot, Citroen

There has been an avalanche of electric car news today, most of it based around two models set to arrive in UK showrooms early in 2011.

The government’s electric car grant, pledging £43 million worth of £5,000 grants to electric and plug-in hybrid cars, will begin in January 2011, and the focus now turns to the cars available under the scheme.

The wait for electric cars has been a long one, but now Peugeot and Citroen will lead the way with the iOn and C-Zero respectively.

If you’re not sure which of the two to buy, the choice is made easier by the fact they are essentially the same car. The only real difference is the badge on the front, although Citroen has marketed the C-Zero covered in graphics, while the Peugeot iOn has been presented as a more subtle monochrome model.

Today it has been announced both cars will even cost the same to run. At £415 a month before VAT, the iOn and C-Zero cost nearly the same as the Nissan Leaf to lease without the large deposit needed for the Japanese model.

However, with Peugeot, there is another option.

The Mu by Peugeot scheme, so called after the French word to move, offers motorists the chance to join for free and rent out a Peugeot iOn on a daily basis.

It is cheaper than a car hire scheme and more flexible than a car club. This is because it can be accessed through an online account – and you can even book a car on your iPhone.

It has been described today by Mu project manager Richard Gavan as ‘a halfway house’ between the two, and offers lower prices on cars throughout the Peugeot range, from the sporty RCZ to the Peugeot iOn.

This is ideal for those who want to drive an electric car to work, but also have the option to hire something with a range over 93 miles during the weekend.

It is just another option for those interested in joining what Transport Secretary Philip Hammond labelled ‘the green revolution’.

Not that range anxiety was a problem for the Citroen C-Zero, which made history by becoming the first ever electric vehicle to travel through the Channel Tunnel this week.

The Sunday Times journalists Nick Rufford and Jason Dawe undertook the journey, and were "delighted to be the first passengers through the tunnel in a production electric vehicle. The C-ZERO performed admirably, despite the terrible weather conditions, and we were still able to complete our story."

The car, in icy conditions, did need to charge up again, but impressed the journalists enough to give it an excellent write-up.

The Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero may be the first wave of electric cars to hit the UK, but with a host of options available to customers, and more conventional styling, it would be difficult to disagree with Philip Hammond when he says: "We could really be at the start of something big."