Sales of zero-emission electric cars are set to remain slow, despite large government incentives, a report has concluded today.
Jointly commissioned by the RAC Foundation and the UK Petroleum Industry Association, the report, entitled 'Powering Ahead – the future or low-carbon cars and fuels', states that zero emission vehicles are too expensive, less practical and due to limited range, often do not offer consumers a realistic alternative to a conventional car.
Only 3,600 electric vehicles have been sold in the two years since a £5,000 government incentive was launched with the aim of increasing uptake.
The report also predicts that forecasts for electric vehicle sales are also highly optimistic, with the government targeting 1.7 million electric cars on the road by 2020, with 200,000 being sold every year.
Experts believe the true number sold in 2020 could be as low as 40,000 per annum.
Despite this the government has pledged a further £300 million to develop the electric car charging infrastructure nationwide.
The report suggests the only course of action: "Breakthroughs in technology, particularly in the cost and performance of batteries are required before plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles can achieve significant market share."
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "It is more than two years since the Government introduced the plug-in car grant.
"This report concludes that the key to making electric cars a commercial success is a major advance in battery technology.
"Until then these vehicles are likely to remain too expensive and too impractical to penetrate the mass market."
Currently there are 11 vehicles eligible for the £5,000 government grant, including the Nissan Leaf and range-extender hybrid Vauxhall Ampera. To encourage business use, the grant rises to over £8,000 for zero-emission vans.