Grants of up to £5000 will go to buyers of new zero emissions cars, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed. From next year, buyers of electric, hydrogen fuel cell or plug-in hybrid vehicles will be eligible for the discount.

The move comes as manufacturers ready electric cars for production. Within the next couple of years buyers will be able to pick from a range of models, including the Mini, Nissan Leaf and the Vauxhall Ampera. A plug-in rechargeable version of Toyota’s Prius hybrid is also expected.

Although such cars are often in some respects mechanically simpler than if they had conventional petrol or diesel engines, the cost of batteries and other components means that their retail prices will be considerably higher compared to conventional vehicles. And doubts have been cast about the costs involved if the batteries require replacement mid-way through the car’s expected life, as is possible.

Even with the grant now confirmed they will, at least in the short team, still prove an expensive alternative to conventional cars.

Predictably, manufacturers have warmly welcomed the government’s grant announcement.

At the same time, the installation of 11,000 plug-in places for such vehicles, at the kerb side and in car parks, is promised for London, Milton Keynes and across the north east of England. Other locations bidding for grants to install such plug-in places include the West Midlands, Cornwall, the Lake District and Manchester.