When Kate Humble asked how many people in the audience drove an electric car, a score of hands shot up. "That's Hay for you," she said. She herself drives a hybrid 4X4 on her smallholding in Monmouthshire, and had just persuaded her mother to buy a hybrid. Although the volume of pure electric cars sold in the UK is only 1% currently, there has been a surge of interest, as the running costs are so low, they can now reach 300 miles before re-charging, and the number of sockets is expanding rapidly. 

Local MP Jesse Norman, former Minister of State for Transport (now Financial Secretary to the Treasury) said he was proud of the government's record in sustainable transport and was sorry to have been moved from the department. Kate Humble challenged him on why there was such high taxation on electric vehicles, and why the government was not actively encouraging a bigger take-up, as in Norway where half of car sales are for electric models.

Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, said there had been a huge shift in technology for the better, but that interest had to be turned into demand. After 120 years of petrol cars, the change was not going to happen overnight "and the Hay audience is ahead of the curve".

Fiona Howarth of Octopus Electric Vehicles said there had been huge improvements and that electrics were now ready to go mainstream.

Robert Llewellyn, who has been driving electric vehicles for 20 years, said he had gone from "petrol-head to volt-head".

For one hour in the Hay tent, as the rain poured down, a ray of sunshine seemed to appear. The future's bright. The future's electric.

Left to right: Robert Llewellyn, Fiona Howarth, Jesse Norman, Kate Humble, Mike Hawes

Picture by Paul Musso

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