The speed of adoption for electric cars over the next few years "could be surprising" and change global energy and auto industries faster than people expect, the head of Europe's largest utility has said in a news agency interview.

Enel is set to spend nearly EUR300m (US$341m) to install about 12,000 recharging columns for electric cars across Italy, CEO Francesco Starace told Bloomberg.

"I firmly believe that car manufacturers who ignore the pace of adoption of electric cars will do it at their own risk," said Starace. "Electric cars are a good idea for an electric company."

Bloomberg noted Italy currently has around 6,000 electric cars serviced by 900 public recharging points and about 1,800 columns installed on private premises.

Enel will spread its spend over two and half years and Starace told Bloomberg there also was scope for up to 30,000 private recharging stations, which would include hotels and restaurants eager to offer the service to customers, some of which have already contacted Enel about installing stations. This system would be able to sustain around 300,000 electric cars, he said.

The CEO also believes electric vehicles could help stabilise the grid and provide a small revenue stream to users when they're recharging. Enel plans to introduce so-called vehicle to grid technology in Italy – it was first implemented in Denmark in August 2016.

The technology turns electric cars into large mobile batteries that are able to interact with the power grid. While charging, cars can promote renewable energy generation and balance out power flows on the grid, Bloomberg said.

Starace believes large scale production isn't far off.

"Cars become cheap when they can be sold by the millions and the Chinese industry is ready for that, the Japanese industry is ready for that, some of the American manufacturers are ready and some of the European manufacturers have understood it," Starace told Bloomberg. "We know from their statements that in 2018 long range models of adequate size are going to be put on the market."