The recession has helped to put the UK on track to meet carbon dioxide reduction targets, a leading Government advisor has said.
However, greater financial support for electric car buyers from the Government will be needed to ensure progress is maintained, according to Professor Julia King, head of the Committed on Climate Change.
Speaking at the Low Carbon Vehicle conference today, Professor King said the recession has led to buyers choosing more fuel-efficient cars, but that she would also be recommending tough new targets to the Government by the end of the year.
That will include the goal of increasing electric vehicle take-up from a predicted 210,000 vehicles in 2015 to 1.7 million by 2020.
Currently there are around 31 million cars on UK roads in total, so the growth to nearly two million electric vehicles is dramatic.
Professor King warned that more financial incentives than has already been given may be needed to encourage this wider adoption of electric cars.
The committee estimates that grants of 800 million could be needed to support the sale of 455,000 electric cars and effectively kick-start the market.
King told whatcar.com: 'We're at the critical stage where manufacturers have developed the vehicles and we just need Government to commit to more support.'
So far, however, the Coalition Government has only guaranteed 43 million worth of 5000 grants up to March 2012, enough for 8600 electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles.
Tough policies on polluting cars
As well as pricing support, King says the Government needs to look at other incentives for electric car drivers, such as the freedom to use bus lanes, as well as more 'fierce' legislation to tackle more polluting cars - high charges for parking at work, for example.
In the longer term, King says car emissions need to be reduced by 90% by 2050 if the target of reducing the UK's overall CO2 output by 80% is to be achieved.
Car emissions will need to come down by more than the overall level, because it is accepted that other sectors, farming in particular, will not be able to make a full contribution to the overall reduction.