A new report jointly commissioned by the RAC Foundation and the UK Petroleum Industry Association has found that just 3,600 electric cars have been sold since the government introduced a £5,000 subsidy to electric vehicle customers nearly two years ago.
The report highlights the fact that customers are put off by the high asking price of 'zero emissions' vehicles and the fact they are simply not as practical (and sometimes as efficient) as petrol and diesel rivals.
The findings come after the government announced a further investment of £300 million to boost the network of public charging points and generally improve the charging infrastructure in this country.
The 154-page report titled 'Powering Ahead - the future of low-carbon cars and fuels' said: "Sales of electric cars are set to fall far short of official expectations. Electric vehicles remain a controversial subject.'"
It added: "Battery electric vehicles face major challenges in gaining market share because of their high prices and limited range.
"Breakthroughs in technology, particularly in the cost and performance of batteries are required before plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles can achieve significant market share."
A positive outlook on electric vehicle sales points towards 200,000 plug-in hybrid and pure battery powered cars being sold each year in the UK by 2020 but some critics - including Ricardo-AEA of authoritative market forecasts who consulted on the project - have placed the figure as low as 40,000.
Those figures look even more troubled when considered in the bigger picture - just over 2 million new cars were sold in the UK last year and it is reported there are around 29 million cars currently on the road in the UK.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: 'It is more than two years since the Government introduced the plug-in car grant.
"Yet even with subsidies of £5,000 per vehicle available only 3,600 cars have been purchased through the scheme.
"This report concludes that the key to making electric cars a commercial success is a major advance in battery technology.
"Until then these vehicles are likely to remain too expensive and too impractical to penetrate the mass market."