Last week's Paris buzz was to a very large extent electric-driven. Although manufacturers strove hard to push their shiny petrol engine alternatives, it was the EV models that caught the attention of the media - and no doubt the public this week as it pours through the Porte de Versailles.

And if the million or so visitors expected at the show during the next fortnight hadn't heard of EVs, they certainly will by the time they leave. Almost every manufacturer was showing them off, from Renault's stunning Dezir concept to Nissan's established Leaf, while a whole host of hybrids jostled for position among the familiar petrol derivatives.

But why now? Why is it Paris was so dominated by electric possibilities? It's partly down to the media - for the scrum of TV news stations present for Renault's Dezir unveiling there was no doubting its stunning looks. EV is a good story, and an intriguing one at that, with a harder edge of potential industrial rejuvenation and all the jobs that - feasibly - might be generated.

It seems no mass-producing major manufacturer's stable can be complete without an electric model to show off but there remain significant hurdles, not the least of which is harmonisation with national governments.

The US has certainly put its money where it's mouth is and the US$25bn Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATV) loan programme is concrete proof it is serious about driving the sector.

One company benefiting from the largesse is Fisker Automotive, whose Karma EV was on show in Paris last week and which is tapping into a US$530m loan from the US Department for Energy to develop its alternative power range.

"The US consumer is leading the world," Fisker director and board member Vic Doolan told just-auto. "Americans are very anxious to adopt new technology and progress - California leads but the rest of the country is not far behind."

Despite that endorsement, Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly cautioned about the risk if Europe lags in putting major investment behind EVs - potentially risking the Chinese, in particular, assuming a significant technology lead.

Reilly's UK homeland is currently putting together a package of tough austerity cuts, while a raft of equally draconian budgets is being prepared across most of western Europe as governments attempt to slash huge deficits.

"Governments have to decide where to spend their money and electric incentives could wait a year," he said, hinting strongly the Asian powerhouses could soon rival their European counterparts.

"Outside Europe, governments will incentivise and if European manufacturers don't have product to offer, very soon the Chinese and Koreans will," he noted. "They are going at a terrific rate - the Chinese have caught up very fast - they are putting cars out on the road."

All the boundless optimism surrounding EV was almost tangible at Paris last week. But will European governments even be able to afford the luxury of an equivalent sum poured into the ATV programme?

And how long will the relatively modest pots doled out by the European and US governments to tempt consumers down the - currently pricey - EV path remain? It's going to take a major upswing in all the mature western markets to be able to sustain that generosity and fuel the EV demand, so prevalent at Paris.

One thing appears for certain though. Manufacturers are moving from the ugly duckling phase of EV design to some real stunners, that if married with concrete incentives, could see real adoption firmly embedded in just 10 years.