OXFORDSHIRE County Council owns no electric vehicles – despite being at the forefront of a zero-emissions zone that could start in as little as three years.

By 2035 only non-petrol and diesel vehicles will be allowed in the city centre as part of an project partly led by the county council.

But its own fleet is largely made up of polluting diesel vehicles, with the rollout of the zone starting as early as 2020.

The county council told the Oxford Mail in a Freedom of Information request it had 366 vehicles at the start of October.

Of those, 365 are diesel-powered. One vehicle of 12 in its trading standards department is hybrid-powered.

Labour county councillor Susanna Pressel, who raised the council's lack of electric vehicles at a meeting last month, said the Conservative-led authority had shown a ‘lamentable lack of political leadership’.

She said: “About 20 years ago the city council started gradually replacing petrol and diesel vehicles in its fleet with low emission ones. Since the county council is the highway authority and responsible for public health, I assumed it was doing the same.

“When I asked a few weeks ago, I was horrified to find that this is not the case. The Conservatives who run the county council have shown a lamentable lack of political leadership in this important area.”

The county council said it had trialled an electric Nissan eNV200 van on a 40-mile school run from Oxford to Wantage and back but found it wasn’t good enough.

It said it found the 90-mile distance promised dropped by about 15 per cent once its heating was turned on.

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “It’s more evidence that the county council has a lot of warm words for things but doesn’t necessarily invest in them. This is exactly the sort of thing it should be investing in.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Chris Church urged the county council to do more.

He said: “If it really wants to act it needs to act itself as well as set a good example to others.”

The county council insisted it is taking action and will form part of an trial with EDF which could recommend suitable electric vehicles.

It has also taken part in a programme, along with Oxford City Council, to install 100 charging stations in the city's residential streets.

Some vehicles which make up the county council’s fleet, such as fire engines, are not yet available in electric form.

But yet Oxford City Council has 17 electric and 22 hybrid-powered vehicles among its fleet of 322.

And while Cherwell District Council has one electric vehicle, but 73 are diesel-powered.

The county council is not alone in having no any electric cars in its fleet.

Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils own two vans between them and both run on diesel, while their other services are outsourced.

West Oxfordshire District Council has 52 vehicles, 26 of which are bin lorries. None are electric or hybrid but a fleet review will be carried out soon and electric vehicles will be considered.

The director of Oxford University’s Transport Studies Unit, Tim Schwanen, said it was common for councils around the country not to have electric vehicles in their fleets at this stage.

He said: “To my mind one of the reasons is financial and it has to do with the cuts councils are facing because of government policy.”

Dr Schwanen added: “It is not cheap (to change to an electric fleet). Managing an electric fleet requires different routines in fleet management. It is more than simply changing a car. I think that is an important point. Many people think changing a fossil fuel car for an electric car is easy but it is more complex than that. You have to change your routine.”

Oxford University said it has 111 vehicles, 10 of which are electric.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said other action was being taken in areas to reduce its carbon footprint.

He said: “Carbon emissions from our travel activities has been picked up as a priority for action through our energy strategy, signed off in October 2016. This includes an objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings and activities by three per cent year on year, on average.

“The strategy is monitored annually. During 2016/17 our greenhouse gas emissions were 11 per cent less than in the previous year and 34 per cent less than in 2010/11 (the baseline for this measure), giving an average annual reduction of seven per cent.”