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Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 10:56 UK

Can We Afford to Fill Up?

Jane Corbin
Jane Corbin reports on how high fuel prices are affecting motorists

The price of crude oil has been hitting record levels, sending the cost of petrol and diesel at the pumps soaring.

In Can We Afford to Fill Up? Panorama reports on how high fuel prices are affecting all of us from Surrey to the Shetlands and takes a look at what alternatives there might be to help us kick our oil addiction.

Even though this week a number of UK supermarkets said that they were cutting their prices, Britain's fuel prices are still amongst the highest in Europe.

About 50p of the price of a litre of petrol goes to the Treasury as fuel duty - before VAT is taken on top.

It all adds up to commuters struggling to afford their daily commute, and a falling second hand car market where many now owe more on their cars than they are actually worth - negative equity on four wheels.

In Can We Afford to Fill Up? Panorama looks at how drivers can alter their driving habits to get the most miles out of every tank of petrol - using so-called eco-driving techniques.

However, a visit to the most northerly part of the UK - the Shetland Isles - shows that for some learning to drive in a more efficient way will simply not be enough.

G-Wiz at Santa Pod racetrack, Northamptonshire - photo courtesy of Julian Hunt

The island of Bressay has the dubious honour of being not only the most expensive place to fill up in the UK, but in the whole of Europe, and rising prices mean a whole way of life is under threat.

But price is not the only factor making our addiction to oil so damaging - there is of course the environmental impact.

The government has pledged to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 26% over the next 12 years.

At the British International Motor Show on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there were now "opportunities for technological innovation and commercial change". He announced a raft of measures to encourage drivers to use electric and low carbon cars.

Offering freedom from petrol prices, road tax, London's congestion charge and cut-price parking, electric cars like the 80km/h (50mph) G-Wiz sound like a possible solution.

Lacking in power

But as Panorama found, getting around in a G-Wiz is not as easy as you might think - especially if you do not live in London.

G-Wiz at Santa Pod racetrack, Northamptonshire - photo courtesy of Julian Hunt
The G-Wiz electric car got put through its paces at the racetrack photo courtesy of Julian Hunt

Panorama asked all 471 local authorities in the UK if they had plug in points where electric cars could be charged - vital for any owner as the G-Wiz has a 48 mile range.

One hundred and twenty replied to our poll:

Apart from Westminster City Council, with 60 charging points; Aberdeen City Council has four charging points at their headquarters, but they are accessible to the public at weekends only; Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has one point at their main office available to the public on request; while Woking Borough Council has two charging points open to the public.

So reporter Jane Corbin set off on a voyage of discovery to see just how hard it was to join the green revolution by driving a G-Wiz in cities like Birmingham and Manchester.

Panorama: Can We Afford to Fill Up? will be on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 28 July 2008.

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Panorama: Can We Afford to Fill Up?

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