Renault will use the quietness of electric cars as its main sales weapon when it introduces the ZOE, a battery-powered small hatchback, to the UK next year.

It already has three electric vehicles on sale in the UK – the mid-sized Fluence saloon, the scooter-like Twizy and a Kangoo van – and has been stressing advantages such as low operating costs to try to sell them.

But, with EV sales way below expectations so far, the ZOE is seen as the model which could make a breakthrough so getting the sales message right is crucial.

“When we launch in the UK the main message is going to be one of silence,” said global sales and marketing director Stephen Norman. “That’s going to be our big thing.”

Norman blamed the slow introduction of a recharging infrastructure for the less than enthusiastic adoption of EVs so far.

“We’re not pleased about the level of sales but we are the European market leaders and, with Nissan, world leaders,” he said.

“The principal reason the market is not expanding more quickly is that the infrastructure is arriving more slowly than we thought.

“We also have work to do on our marketing communications. But what I don’t see in any market is a resistance to electric vehicles on a cultural level.

“Our next task is to get off our backsides and sell them. “We haven’t been able to communicate clearly enough with potential customers about what these vehicles are capable of doing.

“We have to get people into a position where they say why would I not have a ZOE?”