Transport minister Andrew Jones has told fleet managers he wants the next five years to be remembered as the dawn of the ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) era.

He told the Go Ultra Low Fleet Managers Summit that the UK was the fastest growing market for electric vehicles in Europe with nearly 21,000 sold between January and September this year.

Electric vehicle sales were up 140% against last year, and sales of plug-in hybrids were up almost 230%.

Jones said more than two thirds of ultra low emission vehicles bought in the UK were bought by businesses, adding: “That’s great news, because UK fleets are, and always have been, agents of motoring change.

“Many of the innovations that have made cars greener, safer and more efficient in recent decades were made by manufacturers responding to pioneering fleet managers.”

He said: “Going ultra low makes business sense. The government’s plug-in car grant means that the purchase of an ultra low emission vehicle doesn’t have to cost more than a conventional one.

“The Mitsubishi Outlander Phev is the UK’s best-selling plug-in vehicle, and after the £5,000 grant it is the same price as its diesel equivalent. Then there are the ULEV tax breaks and the big savings on servicing and running costs.”

He added: “Over the next five years, as well as keeping tax low, we are investing £500m to support the ultra low emission vehicle market. “We announced in August that we will continue the plug-in vehicle grant at the current levels until at least February 2016.

“And we are expanding the charging infrastructure, too, so the UK now has over 600 rapid charge points, giving the UK the best charging network in Europe and allowing for fast charging at home, on the street, at railway stations, in town centres, service stations and car parks.

“Already, there are thousands more locations where vehicles can be plugged in than there are petrol stations, and the numbers are growing every week.”

He concluded: “An unprecedented, irreversible shift is taking place in the automotive market.”