European countries have started making major pushes to increase the amount of electric cars in operation.
The initiatives mirror efforts by the UK government, with prime minister Gordon Brown recently promising £90 million to support the development of electric, hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles.
The Spanish government has been particularly ambitious, with a new Euro 240 million transport and energy plan released this summer. Its target is one million green cars on Spanish roads by 2014.
The plan follows a program in neighbouring Portugal, whose government has been investing in building electric charging stations across the country.
Another proactive government is Denmark, which plans to link new charging stations to the country’s growing number of electricity windmills.
“Electric cars offer the possibility to get sustainable energy into the transport sector, which is why they have enormous potential – especially in Denmark, where a great deal of our electricity is generated by windmills ," said Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard.
Researchers have been predicting robust growth for electric cars.
Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and J.D. Power and Associates have predicted that in Europe, the market for hybrids and electric vehicles could rise to 50% by 2015 (mostly micro hybrids), from approximately 2% in 2007.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has moved to encourage the use of hydrogen-powered cars.
Last week, the Parliament adopted a legislative report that proposes to lay down harmonised type-approval for hydrogen-powered vehicles for the first time.
This will significantly speed up the introduction of non-polluting hydrogen cars, vans, trucks and buses on roads throughout Europe.
“The agreement in the European Parliament is a big step forward in the introduction of hydrogen vehicles,” said European Commission vice-president Günter Verheugen.
“They have the potential to make Europe’s air cleaner and reduce its dependency on fossil fuels.
"Setting common standards will ensure high safety for citizens and will boost the competitiveness of European manufacturers.
"Now the EU Member Sates will have the final say and I hope for their support.”