In yesterday’s blog I outlined the case against the battery-powered car and how some are arguing it will always remain a niche vehicle. EU legislation would mean that, by 2020, the average Golf-class car would probably match a battery-powered car in terms of levels of exhaust pollution and not be far away from the average Co2 released in charging a battery-powered car.

The French, however, have other ideas. Early in 2010, I was at an automotive conference in Qatar where Dominique Venet, executive vice president of French power giant EDF, explained just why the French state was holding out such hope for EVs.The key new acronym we’ll all have to learn is WTW – ‘Well to Wheel’.

This is a calculation of the Co2 footprint of the energy chain – from, for example, the extraction of crude oil to the wheels of your car being powered.

According to Venet, charging up an EV via a fossil-fuel fired power station means that the WTW Co2 calculation is between 140g/km and 200g/km, with gas and coal at each extreme.

However, in its French home market, EDF reckons it can get that WTW figure down to between just 15 and 20g/km because 95 percent of EDF’s power will come from either Nuclear or Hydro-electric.

Venet, showing the French enthusiasm for state-planning, told the conference that he expected to see 1.5 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2020, a third of which would be pure battery vehicles and two-thirds Hybrids with battery packs big enough to be charged from the mains.

He also estimated that such vehicles would account for 4.5m vehicles by 2025 – some 27 per cent of all the vehicles on French roads.

Still, there will be some disadvantages. EDF reckons only 3 per cent of French EVs will be attached to fast charging points and the rest will, like it or not, have to be charged overnight, to take advantage of the France’s Nuclear power stations, which are generating permanently.

It’s pretty clear why France sees electric cars as being ideal for dovetailing into the country’s Nuclear power generation network, especially for France’s large rural population who are making long commuting journeys.