The use of cadmium batteries in electric vehicles is to be banned in the EU from 2005, the European Commission has announced.

Cadmium is a heavy metal that pollutes the environment and can cause kidney damage in humans.

The Commission said alternative power sources for electric vehicles such as nickel metal hydride batteries were now available and lithium-ion batteries would be on the market later.

Brussels said it wanted to ensure a future for zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars and it was therefore important that the transition to substitute power units did not disrupt the market.

It said it had been assured by experts that this could be done by 2005 and it was therefore withdrawing the derogations that allow use of heavy metals if no substitute is available.

The proposal will now go to a regulatory committee and if approved by a qualified majority will become law. If not, EU ministers will decide on the measure.