Opportunities presented by electric cars could draw Google into the car industry in future, according to its CEO, Eric Schmidt.

The company is already heavily involved in the automotive industry through its connectivity and driverless car projects. But Schmidt — a surprise spectator at Lord Drayson’s electric land speed record attempt in Yorkshire last week — revealed that Google is spending heavily in R&D in all areas of the industry.

“This is the beginnings of a new industry,” he said. “History has proven that new technology thrives best in new companies. I figure that in 20 years’ time, electric cars will be in the mainstream. 

“The technology itself is simple and the application of it is advancing quickly. Eventually, people will have to look at internal combustion-engined cars and ask why we drive such complex vehicles. Digital cameras have replaced analogue cameras; the same will eventually happen with our cars.

“Ultimately, I don’t know where Google fits in. But if we can get involved in anything that promotes new technology, innovation, materials and so on, then we’ll be signed up for it.”