Chris Grayling has been accused of failing to back up his positive words on electric cars with action after it emerged they account for less than 2% of his department’s car fleet.

The UK transport secretary said the government would “lead consumer uptake” of the cars when he laid out his plan for tackling air pollution with a switch to battery-powered vehicles.

However, he has come under fire for subsequently scrapping grants for plug-in cars, in a move condemned by vehicle manufacturers as “astounding”. Now official figures have revealed that only 29 of the 1,830 vehicles run by Department for Transport and its agencies are electric.

Labour said it was “laughable” that two months ago Grayling had been “bragging” about the DfT’s plans to take on more electric vehicles.

“The Tories’ policies show how little they care about the environment and dealing with air pollution. Chris Grayling’s hypocrisy and failure to get his own department to order more low-emission vehicles is further proof of that,” said Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency, which carries out driving tests, are the worst performers. Neither has a single electric model among their hundreds of cars.

So far this year, the DfT has bought 10 electric vehicles, including some of Jaguar’s £64,450 well-reviewed I-PACE models. Last year, it bought three. Other popular models in the UK include the Tesla Model S, which sells from £53,500, and the smaller Nissan Leaf, which starts at £21,990.

The government has set itself a target of making a quarter of its car fleet electric within four years, and 100% by 2030. About 2% of new car sales in the UK are of electric models, either fully electric or plug-in hybrids.

A DfT spokesperson said: “To suggest that the DfT immediately scrap all its non-electric vehicles would be a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money that would be wholly disproportionate to the environmental benefit it would bring.”

The government has also slashed incentives for the purchase of electric cars by members of the public. The plug-in car grant, which since 2011 has knocked £4,500 off the purchase price of a new electric vehicle, was cut in November by £1,000, while incentives of £2,500 to buy new hybrid cars have been abolished altogether.

MPs are also pushing for an earlier deadline on a proposed ban for selling diesel and petrol cars in the UK. The business, energy and industrial strategy committee has urged ministers to bring forward their ban on new petrol and diesel car sales by eight years to 2032, to avoid the UK being left “in the passenger seat” in the global switch to electric vehicles.

Government plans for a 2040 ban on fossil fuel-powered cars and vans across Britain were unambitious and did not even show leadership within the UK, given Scotland has set itself an earlier target, the committee said in October.

There are more than a million electric cars in Europe after sales soared by more than 40% in the first half of the year. Europe hit the milestone nearly a year after China, which has a much larger car market.

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