Zapatero's dream is some way from realisation

It was supposed to be the centrepiece of Spain's green agenda: within four years a million electric cars would take to the roads, with battery top-up points sprouting up in petrol stations and disused telephone booths across the country.

“Electric vehicles are on their way,” said Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as he unveiled the plans in April. “Let us get ahead and get them here sooner.” But figures show that Mr. Zapatero's green dream is some way from realisation: in the first seven months of the year, only 16 electric cars were registered for use on Spanish roads. Even that was a 16-fold increase on 2009, when just one electric car was registered.

Though the plan also includes subsidies for hybrid electric and petrol-driven cars, makers said they only planned to sell half a dozen of these in Spain this year, according to the ABC newspaper.

That makes the stated goal of having 2,000 electric vehicles circulating by the end of this year almost unachievable. Next year's target had been to get 20,000 electric and hybrid cars on the road.

The failed attempt to kickstart Spain's electric car market comes despite pledges of €80 million of subsidies for those who buy by the end of next year — with the government funding 20 per cent of the purchase, or up to €6,000, on each car.

The government-sponsored Wind Power and Electric Vehicles group tried to put a brave face on the situation.

“The figures are similar to what happened in their day to personal computers or mobile phones,” it argued. “The first models are expensive and with few extras and sales are slow. But somewhere around 2012 dozens of electric vehicles with lithium batteries and at a lower price will reach the market — and the recharging infrastructure will be in place.” The group did not say it felt the target of 100,000 sales in 2014 looked impossible. Spain's lack of enthusiasm for electric cars emerged as austerity measures reduce the funding of other green projects. Solar-generated electricity “farms” are likely to be worst hit, with subsidies for new solar projects to be slashed by 25-45 per cent. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010