Renault FluenceElectric car buyers can receive a grant of up to £5,000 – as long as it’s picked from a list of models officially endorsed by the Government-backed scheme.

This is our complete guide to the plug-in car grant.

The plug-in Car Grant allows buyers to claim back 25 per cent of their new electric car’s value, up to a £5,000 limit. Eligible cars include plug-in hybrids too.

The incentive is designed to encourage sales of low- or zero-emissions cars in the UK. The scheme is planned to last until March 2014 and will fund savings on around 8,600 cars.

The discount will be applied when the car is purchased, so buyers won’t need to claim the discount back, and there’s no limit to the number of cars which can be bought on the scheme.

Eligibility is based on a set of criteria which includes:

• Its fuel type – battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell
• A minimum of a 70-mile range on a charge for electric vehicles
• A minimum of a 10-mile battery range for plug-in hybrid vehicles
• A maximum speed of at least 60mph
• Zero emissions for electric vehicles and a maximum CO2 emission rating of 75g/km for plug-in hybrids
• A minimum three-year/75,000 mile vehicle warranty and a minimum three-year extendable battery warranty
• Minimum safety requirements meeting internationally-recognised standards
• A reasonable degree of performance after a three-year period of normal use
• It must be a car, not a quadricycle such as the G-Wiz

Eligible cars:

Chevrolet Volt

One of the most impressive and promising alternatively fuelled vehicles ever to go on sale, the Chevrolet Volt is as usable as any conventional production car. Except it’s not actually available yet, as you’ll have to wait until spring 2012 before you can buy one. Chevrolet is hoping to charge around £30,000, from which you can deduct your five grand. Power comes from a small engine which charges a set of batteries, which then power the car’s motors.

Chevrolet Volt gallery:

Chevrolet Volt

Citroen C-Zero

If the shape looks familiar, it’s because the C-Zero is little more than a rebadged Mitsubishi i-Miev, the petrol-engined version of which (the i) has been available since 2007. The C-Zero will be available soon, but you’ll only be able to lease it, rather than buy one. The cost has been set at £498 per month, once the grant has been claimed.

Citroen C-Zero gallery:

Citroen C-Zero

Mia Electric

The Mia Electric looks quite unlike anything else on the road. According to its makers it is equipped for urban mobility. It has two sliding side doors for enhanced access and the entry-level version can be fully charged in three hours and has a range of around 50 miles. There’s also a 12kWh battery option, taking five hours to charge, but giving a range of around 70 miles.

Mitsubishi i-Miev

The all-electric version of the quirky-looking Mitsubishi i has the electric car market to its own for a while – at least as far as cars produced and sold by an established manufacturer is concerned. It’s a four-door hatchback that’s particularly narrow, making it ideal for congested cities, and it offers performance and a drive that’s comparable with the standard, petrol-engined i.

Mitsubishi i-Miev gallery:

Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is on sale now. The Leaf can carry five passengers and comes equipped with the technology buyers expect from modern cars. It’ll manage 100 miles between charges and offers impressive performance.

Full Nissan Leaf gallery:

Peugeot iOn

It’s effectively the same car as the Citroen and Mitsubishi, but the deal is exactly the same as you’ll get through your Citroen dealer. That means a £498 monthly charge, but whereas you’ll have to wait for the Citroen to become available, you can already sign up for an iOn. Also like the Citroen, the iOn’s range isn’t that great, with just 93 miles the official figure. In real life it’ll be even lower.

Peugeot iOn gallery:

Peugeot iOn

Renault Fluence ZE

Renault is launching a range of electric cars over the coming years, and the Fluence ZE is the first on sale in the UK. It is a four-door saloon, only slightly larger than the Renault Megane hatchback. ZE stands for Zero Emissions courtesy of a Lithium Ion battery pack, which gives the electric Renault a range of 115-miles in ideal conditions. It’s reasonably conventional inside, until you drive off and appreciate how quiet the cabin is with no fuel-burning engine.

Renault Fluence ZE gallery:

Renault Fluence gallery

Smart fortwo electric drive

There have been electric ForTwos on UK streets for almost a year now, with smart having issued 100 of them to drivers in London and the Midlands to see how they fare. As usual, the key problem is one of range, with 84 miles the advertised limit. The top speed is 60mph, while 0-38mph (60kmh) takes 6.5 seconds. so as with most electric cars, the smart ED is ideally suited to city driving rather than longer trips.

smart fortwo ED gallery:

smart fortwo ED

Tata Vista

For a company that has no real presence in the UK, the inclusion of a Tata here will be a surprise to many. The Vista is effectively a re-engineered version of Tata’s Indica supermini, the work being done at the company’s European Technical Centre in Warwick. Available to lease from the summer, Tata’s aim is to give the Vista a range of 160 miles, at a price comparable with rivals such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi I-Miev.

Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid

Although the Prius was the first mainstream hybrid to go on sale, the plug-in version won’t arrive until Spring 2012 – a year after key rivals first appeared. The plug-in version is much like the regular Prius, but you can top it up from the mains and the batteries are far more efficient than in the standard car’s. The result is a car with a potential range of over 1000 miles, but the penalty is a high purchase price – it’s reckoned the car will cost well over £25,000, even once the grant has been claimed.

Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid gallery:

Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid

Vauxhall Ampera
One of the most significant electric vehicles will be the Vauxhall Ampera when it goes on sale in 2012. It drives like a normal electric vehicle, but once the power is drained after 30 miles, the petrol engine kicks in to charge it, making the Ampera good for around 300 miles. This ‘extended range’ electric vehicle is the first electric car to leave drivers confident they’ll reach their destination.

Full Vauxhall Ampera gallery:

Fuel types explained

Electric vehicles

• Have a battery pack and electric motors, rather than an engine
• Need to be plugged in overnight for a full charge
• No possibility of ‘topping up’ the battery, although most can be partially charged in a few hours
• Exempt from congestion charging
• Free charging stations and parking are available
• Some, such as the Vauxhall Ampera, use an engine to top-up the battery on the move and are known as extended-range electric vehicles

Plug-in hybrids

• Work in the reverse of a normal hybrid – the car is charged making it capable of a long range on electricity alone, and a petrol or diesel engine provides assistance for acceleration or when the battery is flat
• No plug-in hybrid cars are available to buy, but a small number have been leased to business fleets
• A plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius is currently being tested, and versions of the Volvo C30 and Volvo V50 are in development

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

• Powered by hydrogen, which uses a fuel cell to generate electricity to power electric motors
• The only emissions are heat and water
• Places to fill up with hydrogen are limited, and many have concerns about its safety, although it is no more dangerous than petrol
• Hydrogen is abundant in the atmosphere, but is expensive to produce and store
• No fuel cell cars are sold in the UK, but Honda sells the FCX Clarity in America. Many car makers are developing them, but few have indicated they will mass produce them soon