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While many of us would like to do our bit for the environment, meeting the extra cost of buying and maintaining an electric car is just too high for a lot of ordinary people.

One of the main reasons for the high cost of such cars is the expense of the batteries, which need to be periodically replaced and can cost far more than even the most expensive components for equivalent petrol or diesel-powered vehicles, such as replacement car engines.

But now, Volvo has argued that the European Union (EU) should introduce measures to subsidise the cost of batteries and therefore electric cars to help encourage their uptake by consumers.

"The automotive industry's cost reduction efforts can't fully compensate for the additional battery system cost," said Volvo's president Stefan Jacoby.

"Pan-European subsidies and incentives are needed to support a successful market introduction."

Speaking at an an industry seminar in Brussels today, Mr Jacoby warned that the EU risks missing its targets on CO2 emissions by not providing consumers with enough incentives to adopt green technology, such as electric and hybrid vehicles.

Under the European Commission's White Paper on Transport, greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector will have to be cut by at least 60 per cent by 2050 to achieve the EU's climate change goals.

But this target is being jeopardised by a lack of efforts to increase the affordability of electric vehicles, said Mr Jacoby.

Volvo also argued that conventionally powered vehicles' role in improving car emissions should not be ignored.

Mr Jacoby pointed out that Volvo has reduced CO2 emissions from its diesel and petrol model ranges by 13 per cent over the past two years alone.

Renault recently announced that batteries for its new electric vehicle the Zoe will be owned by the manufacturer and leased back to the customer, helping to significantly reduce the car's upfront cost.