Why has it taken so long to get electric cars onto the road in any numbers, despite t heir manifold environmental and other benefits? It's not down to a lack of technology; the humble electric milk float trundled onto the pre-dawn streets of British cities seven decades ago. The problem is one of political will. Today just a handful of pure electrics are in anything like widespread use. A couple of months ago that small but growing fleet was joined by a pint-sized city vehicle named the MyCar CV2. However, you won't see any of these new runabouts in Hong Kong - even though the MyCar was born here. The MyCar was developed jointly by local firm EuAuto Technologies and the University of Hong Kong, and is made on the mainland. Yet despite a planned launch into the Hong Kong market in September, it remains unlicensed for use in its hometown, to whose crowded roads, polluted air, short travel distances and world-class electricity infrastructure it is perfectly suited. So when I get to test drive the MyCar, it's ironically in creaky old London. To be fair, it has taken an age for the British to switch on to electric cars. But environmental responsibility appears to have won the day and a range of measures are now in place to entice drivers out of fossil fuel-burners and into electric vehicles. And in central London, at least, these seem to have succeeded to some degree. That success hasn't come at the expense of the MyCar's novelty value, however; I get no shortage of curious stares as I hum around Mayfair and Marylebone in the test car on a breezy Tuesday afternoon. A man too old for the Mini he's driving leans out of his window to ask what I'm driving. 'It looks ridiculous,' he says, with no apparent irony. Then a young woman at the wheel of a G-Wiz - the MyCar's main rival in Britain - stops to ask who sells it. I'm not surprised she warms to its toy-like appearance: the G-Wiz looks like an inbred Reliant Robin. The MyCar is hardly a mainstream motor: its tiny size, high shoulders, truncated canopy and stubby boots (one in front, one behind - each just big enough for some weekday grocery shopping) will endear it more to the Smart set than to sedan-driving suburbanites. But do you really need anything more substantial in the big smoke? The lack of storage might irk some drivers after a while, and a hatchback at the rear would have made more sense both practically and aesthetically, but inside it's surprisingly spacious, with adequate headroom for two tallish adults. The test car is the higher-spec model of the two currently available, with a glass roof that does much to improve visibility and other touches such as leather seats and larger alloy wheels. It still seems something of a work in progress, however, with fibreglass reinforced plastic body panels that aren't always a perfect fit and dodgem-like steering that doesn't self-correct quite readily enough. At a stop the engine doesn't idle, so there's a near silence in the cabin, which might spook noise-loving Hongkongers, but plant your foot and the engine engages with a click, whirring you forwards. At 40km/h, however - a breakneck pace for W1 on a weekday lunchtime, and just 24km/h short of the MyCar's top speed - its unsuitability for anything other than city hops becomes obvious, with engine noise that's just a little too loud for comfort. I keep reaching down in vain for a gear lever (it's a single-speed automatic, which means a choice of go, whoah or reverse), and driving down Marylebone High Street I feel every manhole cover. It's a little like early versions of the Smart ForTwo, although the London dealer, EV Stores, reassures me that more refined models are in development. And although a model with air con may be some way off (existing batteries would be drained by the extra load), the dealer says climate-cooled seat covers are available as an extra (GBP100 per seat) and that they're just as effective at keeping the occupants from breaking a sweat. Given its limitations, the MyCar's British price tag of GBP10,000, (HK$124,630), seems a bit hefty. But that should surprise no one; it's a car at the vanguard of a new era in motoring, and as electric vehicles become more popular their cost will fall, benefiting drivers and the environment. British authorities seem to have realised this and have dangled some enlightened incentives that include free parking for electric cars in many parts of London, an exemption from road tax and the GBP8 daily central London congestion charge, and, for GBP70 a year, unlimited access to more than 200 charging points around the city. From 2011, the British government will also offer a purchase subsidy of GBP5,000 on all electric cars. Not so pricey now, is it? The numbers are already starting to add up for British motorists, even in these early days of the electric era, largely thanks to forward-looking transport policy. Which rather begs the question of why in a city with the know-how to build an electric car for a low-carbon future, we haven't yet been able to drive one. The Hong Kong police are trialling Mitsubishi's electric iMiEV supermini and may consider deploying the car to one of its divisions for assessment as a potential addition to its fleet. Watch this space. Is Hong Kong ready for electric cars? Tell us on firstname.lastname@example.org . AT A GLANCE: MyCar CV2 What drives it? A 48V DC electric motor powered by a lead AGM battery and linked to a single-speed automatic gearbox. How fast is it? The CV2 has a top speed of 64km/h and can ascend gradients of up to 20 per cent. It's not licensed for highway use in the EU. What's its range? The dealer says the MyCar runs 80km on a single charge. A full charge takes six to eight hours, a quick charge three hours. Where can you charge it? In London, at any of more than 200 charging points, or at home using a 220-240V, 16A, 50Hz household electric supply. How safe is it? Its body panels are made of fibreglass reinforced plastic, and it has a collapsible steering column, three-point seatbelts and a frontal energy-absorbing structure. Availability: The MyCar CV2 is not yet licensed for road use in Hong Kong, but manufacturer EuAuto Technology says it has been granted a preliminary licence by the Transport Department pending a full licence in the next few weeks. A local launch is planned for September and the car will sell for less than HK$100,000. For details, call EuAuto on 2334 7331, or go to euauto.com.hk.