EU industry ministers pressed the EC to establish a strategy to develop electric vehicles

Madrid currently holds the rotating EU presidency and the Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian said he "believed leadership on electric cars must be driven by communal institutions."

Spain wants the electric car to feature in the EU’s 2020 strategy, the economic reform project aimed at ensuring prosperity and sustainable growth for Europe.

"Obviously there are lots of questions … issues of legal security, validation, the safety of the vehicles themselves … and cost," Spain’s industry minister Miguel Sebastian said at a news conference after a meeting with European counterparts.

EU industry ministers gathered in Donostia-San Sebastian Spain ahead of an action plan for European electric vehicle industry expected in May, and saw an exhibition of 15 models of electric cars and prototypes which are being developed in Europe.

Plans for electric cars are currently scattered around EU member states and auto manufacturers, and Madrid wants the European Commission to prepare a plan for a common strategy by May.

"It is good for people’s pockets, good for European income and employment, good for Europe as a whole, and it will be good for the planet from an environmental perspective," the Spanish minister said.

Fierce competition in the electric car sector is expected to come from the United States and China, and EU ministers urged swift action.

But they did not discuss in detail the awkward question of public funding — which manufacturers have asked for to kick start the sector.

"What struck us first of all was the disorder in the charging systems … it’s all a little bit chaotic and that is something we will have to avert, in order to avoid what happened in the video industry," Sebastian said.

"But harmonization doesn’t cost too much money at the moment, what will cost money is if we have to say (to car manufacturers) that they have to change your designs in five years time," he added.

In this sense, the EC Director General of Industry and Enterprise, Heinz Zourek, underlined that the Commission is already preparing instructions for electric vehicle standardisation which will be compulsory for the industry.

Standardisation includes not only encouraging the manufacture of essential components such as batteries or the implementation of a Euroconnector that would allow any user to recharge his vehicle’s battery in any country of the European Union, but also measures providing incentives for purchase decided by agreement among the member countries.

Spain has made the electric car a cornerstone of its six month EU presidency and has much to gain from the development of an industry which could stem the huge loss of jobs from its own auto sector and use the large amounts of wind power it generates at off-peak hours.

The Spanish power system is currently capable of supporting 10 million electric vehicles, if they are recharged slowly and at times of low demand such as overnight. This will also boost the penetration of renewable energies like wind energy.