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COMMENT: Funding PTSD programme could end up saving money

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Do you know anybody who owns an electric car? No, neither do I – and therein lies the problem.

Manufacturers have spent billions on research and development and a government scheme aimed at encouraging people in the UK to buy electric vehicles is offering a £5,000 subsidy to make it more attractive.

But, despite that, just 255 have been purchased in the past three months. In total, fewer than 2,000 totally electric cars (not petrol-electric hybrids) are currently proceeding quietly along Britain’s highways and byways.

Now the Top Gear team of Clarkson and co have tested a Nissan Leaf and been highly sceptical.

But is it any wonder that we’ve not been won over? For a starters, electric cars cost a heck of a lot more – whether it’s for models that may look either plain odd or just like their petrol-powered cousins.

People may be keen to make the switch and show they’re green, but in the end it comes down to cost. Just as if solar panels were much cheaper then we’d all be more likely to fit them to our roofs, so our choice of transport is governed by our budget.

Then there’s the issue of practicality. What happens if you exceed the range of the battery and come to a halt nowhere near a socket? Charging points are being introduced, but they’re few and far between.

And then we come to the small matter of how long it takes to charge up one of these cars. While you can fill a car with petrol in a few minutes, it can take eight hours to squeeze sufficient juice from a plug to get barely 100 miles at best. And what happens when the very expensive battery needs replacing?

But here’s the best – or worst – bit. Stop to think about where the electricity comes from to power these ‘green’ machines and you realise the whole thing is smoke and mirrors.

Because much of our electricity is generated by power stations that burn fossil fuels. So although your car may not be chucking out any emissions, the power station is.

The internal combustion engine may be ancient technology, but it’s still the best we’ve got.