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Is the future of motoring electric?

Electric cars were once viewed as quirky and alternative vehicles chosen for ideological reasons. But is this set to change?

Motor industry experts claim most cars in Britain will be electric by 2040 following the government’s announcement of a £500 million subsidy.

At the start of May, Nick Clegg said owning an eco-car is "no longer a dream or an inconvenience", and pledged a hefty investment to encourage people to use green vehicles.

The money will go towards grants for buyers, the installation of more rapid charging points, and to help fund incentives such as free parking and use of bus lanes.

But does a plug-in car really offer the same experience as driving a petrol model?

'I don’t miss owning a petrol car'

Steve Yianni, 52, from Milton Keynes, bought a BMW i3 in March this year and hasn’t looked back.

The key factors in his decision were practicality and reduced running costs.

"As my children are becoming more transport independent, I don’t need a big family car any more," he says.

"Plus the car that I’ve been running for the past eight years costs me around 20p per mile in fuel, whereas the equivalent cost for the i3 is just 2p.

'I now drive more carefully'

"Since owning an electric car, my driving style has changed.

As I now have a fixed amount of energy, I drive a lot more carefully: I’m more cautious at junctions and slower on the motorway.

"I don’t miss owning a petrol car because I no longer have to worry about filling it up and the cost.

"The acceleration is also phenomenal when you want to put your car through its paces."

What’s on offer?

The new £500 million scheme is clearly a major boost to the growing number of car firms now offering ultra-low-emission cars, including BMW, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, Vauxhall and Ford.

BMW bosses welcomed the move, saying it shows the government is serious about embracing new technologies.

The firm has invested heavily in its brand of "I" electric cars, ranging from the i3 super-mini to the i8 supercar (pictured right).

Clegg insists the investment is there to make driving an electric car "affordable, convenient, and free from anxiety about the battery running out".

Will greener vehicles become a 'no-brainer'?

So far, 2014 has seen an increase of more than 180% per cent in plug-in car registrations on the same period last year.

This is according to the Go Ultra Low consumer campaign which helps motorists understand the benefits, cost savings and performance features of the wide range of green cars available today.

"Ultra-low emissions vehicles are now a genuine option," says spokesman Keith Lewis.

"The message that these vehicles can cost from as little as 2p a mile is really starting to drive home."

He points out that green cars can now be charged at over 5,000 locations around the UK, with the network set to expand further.

"Buyers are starting to view plug-in cars as normal cars for everyday use by normal people," he adds.

Still a long way to go

But while some people claim petrol cars will be consigned to the history books within a few decades, the reality of this remains to be seen.

"Electric cars are fast becoming a real option for the environmentally-conscious and financially savvy," says Lucy Burnford from motoring website,

"But petrolheads won’t be making the switch from gas guzzlers any time soon, as for now, there’s only a handful of charge points nationwide – plus the cars aren’t practical for long journeys."

For the time being at least electric and hybrid vehicles represent just 1% of car sales in Britain – so there’s still a considerable way to go.

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Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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