THE county council has been told it ‘must set an example’ and buy more electric vehicles – as it emerges it still owns none.

That is despite a zero emissions zone being launched in Oxford by the county and city councils in less than two years.

Polluting diesel vehicles still make up most of the council’s fleet and it has just one hybrid-powered car.

The council insists it is carrying out work to ‘review the suitability’ of replacing vehicles powered by fossil fuels with electric ones when they are due for replacement, and said some should be replaced later this year.

But on the previous two occasions the Oxford Mail asked – in October 2017 and this month – the county council said it had no electric vehicles.

Last year, the county council said its requirements could not be met by electric vehicles.

But a Government-backed project will see electric buses used in Oxford as part of a city council-led initiative later this year.

According to the county council, it has 241 diesel-powered vehicles and one hybrid car – an overall drop from the 366 vehicles it was running a year ago.

In contrast, the city council said it, along with its Direct Services company, owns 345 vehicles.

Of those, 23 are purely electric and 23 are hybrid. That means about seven per cent of its fleet is electric.

The vast majority – 285 – remain diesel-powered and 14 use petrol.

Susanna Pressel, who represents Labour on both the county and city councils, said: “If this is truly a priority, you might think [the county council] would have more than one hybrid car and zero electric cars by now.

“I can understand that they might have trouble sourcing electric HGVs, but they have 90 cars, of which 86 are diesel. That is just not good enough.

“The city council by contrast has 10 electric cars and one hybrid car out of a total of 35 cars.

“Doctors and researchers are coming up with more and more evidence of the harm that air pollution does to our health: if you are a child with asthma or anyone with a lung condition, air pollution can kill you. The county council really must set an example and start using more electric vehicles.”

Giulia Carraro is the assistant manager of the EV Experience Centre in Milton Keynes, which is first brand-neutral sales centre for electric vehicles in the country.

She said: “There is definitely a lot more awareness and curiosity. [The technology] is here…it is the future already. A lot of us already have electric vehicles. They are not perfect but they are a lot better than what we have at the moment. It is changing really quickly.”

She added that to maintain an electric car, it costs about £10 to hire a charging point for a month and then about £2.50 a week for electricity to power a car for 250 miles.

Other companies, including Midlands-based Sutherland Campbell, said it has ‘actively supported’ both the city and county councils in their adoption of electric vehicles.

It said on its website that it is ‘accelerating e-mobility in Oxfordshire’ and has worked with BMW and Oxford Brookes University with other projects.

The county and city councils have worked together on a project to install 100 charging points for electric cars around Oxford.

Martin Crabtree, Oxfordshire County Council spokesman, said: “The county council’s overarching aim is for Oxfordshire to be at the forefront of electric vehicle technology and is playing a major role in developing the infrastructure needed for the next wave of electric vehicles.

“We are committed to helping promote electric vehicles and enable Oxfordshire companies and private individuals to invest in and use them.

“We are currently working internally and with a European project ‘HELLOEV’ to review the suitability of a number of our fleets for electric vehicles when they come up for replacement and will be replacing a proportion of our pool cars with electric vehicles as vehicles are available later in the year.”

Cherwell District Council said it has 72 vehicles. Of those, 71 are diesel-powered and another is electric-powered.

West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council had not replied to freedom of information requests by the time the Oxford Mail went to print.

But SODC and Vale, which share staff and a base in Milton Park, only had two vans last October. Both were diesel-powered.

Last autumn, West Oxfordshire said it owned 52 vehicles, 26 of which were bin lorries. Although it had no electric or hybrid vehicles at the time, it said a fleet review would have been ‘carried out soon’.

Tom Hayes, the city council's executive board member for a safer and greener environment, said: “We choose electric vehicles to save money and the environment and, when replacing vehicles, our policy is to always look to purchase electric vehicles. Where electric versions of the vehicle do not yet exist (i.e. recycling collection trucks), we buy the cleanest vehicles possible: all our commercial diesel vehicles purchased since 2014 are Euro 6 compliant.

“Our long-term ambition is to – where the vehicle technology exists – have a completely zero-emission fleet.”