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What is a zero emission car and are they becoming more popular?

Zero emission cars are growing in popularity. Credit: PA

The UK’s first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit is being held in Birmingham.

Here are some of the key questions about cleaner vehicles:

  • What is a zero emission car?
Zero emission cars emits no exhaust gas from the onboard source of power Credit: PA

Most zero emission cars are pure-electric, which means they are wholly driven by an electric motor which is powered by a battery that can be plugged into the mains. There is no combustion engine.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are refuelled using compressed hydrogen, which the car converts into electricity. The only emission is water, which is so clean it is safe to drink.

  • How many of these cars exist?
Ten electric cars at Gatwick South Terminal as Bluecity launch their zero emissions car sharing scheme Credit: PA

DVLA figures show that 45,400 electric cars were licensed for use in the UK at the end of last year, representing 0.1% of all cars.

This has risen from 6,300 in 2013.

Take-up of hydrogen fuel cell cars has been limited as only a few models and public refuelling pumps are available.

  • What about other low-emission options?
Plug-in hybrids are considerably more effective at cutting emissions. Credit: PA

The term hybrid generally means cars which use both electricity and petrol, with the latter often used only to recharge the electric batteries.

Plug-in hybrids are considerably more effective at cutting emissions.

The batteries in these cars can be plugged in to the mains and can enable a range of about 20-40 miles of zero emission driving.

  • Are low-emission cars becoming more popular?
Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories backed electric cars as part of the party’s environment paper Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Demand for new alternatively-fuelled vehicles grew by 35% last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

This was made up of hybrids (61%), plug-in hybrids (28%) and pure-electric vehicles (11%).

The increase resulted in a record 4.7% share of the new car market.

Ministers have pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, although environmental groups want this date to be brought forward.

  • Are there enough charging points for electric cars?
A pair of Zipcar club car-sharing Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in petrol-electric hybrid cars being recharged on a street Credit: PA

According to ZapMap, there are 6,184 locations providing a total of 17,782 individual connectors. Of these there are 1,162 rapid charging locations with 3,813 connectors.

A study for motoring research charity the RAC Foundation found that growth in electric car use could be stalled by limitations in the public charging network.

The mass market appeal of ultra-green vehicles may be restricted without widespread, reliable and easy-to-use charging points, the report warned.

Separate AA research shows that eight out of 10 drivers see the lack of charging points as a stumbling block for them to buy an electric vehicle.

  • Is there any help with the higher upfront cost of buying an electric car?
A number of Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars on the road in Birmingham following its launch in the city. Credit: PA

The Government’s plug-in car grant can save motorists up to £4,500 when buying a greener car.

Since the scheme was launched in 2011 there have been 164,000 claims, according to the RAC Foundation.

An additional 4,732 claims had been made under the plug-in van grant scheme.

  • What else is the Government doing to encourage electric car use?
Stewart Wingate CEO of Gatwick (left) and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling next to an electric cars Credit: PA

The Government’s Road to Zero strategy involves supporting a massive expansion of charging infrastructure, including the installation of hundreds of thousands more charge points.

Under the plans, new homes and offices may be required to install charge points as standard.

Prime Minister Theresa May has also pledged a £106 million funding boost for research and development in the sector.

  • What is the most common plug-in car on the road?
A Nissan electric car charging Credit: PA

According to the RAC Foundation the most common cars on the road that are (or have been) plug-in grant eligible are: Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (33,964 licensed as of the end of Q1 2018), Nissan Leaf (21,675) and the BMW 330e (10,301).