Are electric cars really the future of motoring?

Where next for electric cars?

So the infrastructure is improving, but what about the actual technology? Electric cars use Lithium batteries like those powering your mobile phone and laptop - and we know how unreliable they can be after prolonged use.

However, due to the huge costs of the batteries we will most likely lease them so that when they are spent we won't have the costly expense of replacing them.

Faye Sunderland, Editor of the, is enthusiastic about the prospect of going electric, but she too has concerns about the lack of infrastructure. She says: "At the moment there is only one electric car charging point in Manchester, and Boris Johnson predicts it will cost £60m just to have London equipped for electric car use."

PARK AND CHARGE: A NICE electric car plugged in for a top-up

Electric cars and safety

The safety aspect of near-silent electric cars is also of concern, especially with sports models like the Tesla which are extremely fast but potentially deadly to pedestrians. She believes car makers are developing systems to warn other road users: "Lots of manufacturers are developing artificial noise for their electric vehicles, ranging from engine noise to music. Expect the EU to legislate on it."

Taylor-Haw is optimistic of an integrated future where electric cars will complement our current technology. "What's really exciting is that you could use your sat-nav or an iPhone app to find an empty parking space with an electric charging point and book it. You could then pay for your electricity using a London Oyster style pre-pay card or choose your energy supplier and add your motoring costs to your home electricity bill."

All very high-tech, but he predicts this will be in place by 2010. In two months' time a trial will be carried out in London following a similar scheme in Germany to test the idea of home billing for electric car use.

Richard George from the Campaign for Better Transport feels more needs to be done to encourage us out of our cars. "If our biggest concern is reducing carbon dioxide emissions from transport, electric cars go some of the way. What they don't do is tackle the rising congestion or gridlock problems," he says.

He's got a point: there are 27 million cars on British roads, and counting. George suggests we should be less reliant on our cars.

"A reduction in car trips is needed," says George. "A lot of people drive unnecessarily for a journey they could otherwise have walked. Research shows that car journeys less than five miles account for 20 per cent of passenger transport CO2."

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