by RAY FLEMING

BBC Radio 4 is currently running a series called Electric Ride at 11.30 on Saturday mornings which reports on an attempt to drive an electric car from Norway to Portugal. The problems for the driver, Peter Curran, are turning out to be considerable and often unexpected but he is determined to finish the journey. Pioneering Palma has just installed recharging points in car parks for the two - so far - electric cars believed to be on the city's roads.

What are the chances of electric cars really becoming a viable proposition for everyday drivers and making a significant contribution to low-carbon transport? Car manufacturers say they will never catch on unless their high development costs are subsidised by governments. In Britain the Labour government planned to bring in a 250 million pound incentive scheme for electric cars but there was no reference to this in Mr Osborne's recent budget. This week the coalition Business Minister, Vince Cable, told car manufacturers, “We've moved on from the era of subsidies.” Mitsubishi, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen were due to introduce electric cars to Britain next year and Nissan planned to begin production of them in the UK in 2013. There are other forms of subsidy, for instance zero-rating for tax, congestion charges and city parking but none of these will cover the initially high cost of the lithium-ion batteries that power these cars.

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