The figure – more than 7,300 – was reported to a county council scrutiny meeting where members were asked for their views on its draft electric vehicle strategy.
Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment, told the meeting: “With the government planning to ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2040, it’s important that we ensure we have sufficient infrastructure across the county in order to charge the growing number of electric vehicles.
“We have high ambitions but are acutely aware of changing technologies.”
Mrs Urquhart said the plan was to go with those high ambitions but ‘with no or little risk or cost to the council taxpayer’.
The strategy aims for 70 per cent of the county’s new cars to be electric by 2030; to make sure there is enough infrastructure in place to cope with the demand; and to ensure a renewable energy source is used for the charging points.
Drivers would pay for the energy they used.
There are currently just under 1,600 electric vehicles on the road in West Sussex, a figure that is expected to rise to 66,200 in 2025, and 161,500 in 2030. More than 44,000 of the vehicles would rely on public charging points.
When put out to public consultation throughout September, the strategy saw more than three-quarters of respondents support its aims.
The lack of public charging points and the cost of the cars were the main reasons people gave for not switching to an electric vehicle.
The committee agreed that more needed to be done to highlight the government grants available to help people make the change.
Looking at the potential costs, sustainability officer Ruth O’Brien said the council was being ‘cautious’ given the speed at which technology was developing.
Her report said: “We are cautious in investing our limited capital funds in an innovative and evolving technology.
“We lack the resources internally to stay on the cutting edge of developments, and see the market as the main holders of this knowledge and expertise.
“Therefore our preferred option for delivery and ongoing management, operation and maintenance is the use of third party supplier.”
Committee chairman Andrew Barrett-Miles said it was wise to be cautious as only time would tell if the council was under-estimating or over-estimating what would be needed.
He added: “This is a chicken and egg thing. The uptake will depend on the availability of charging points and the charging points will depend on the likely uptake.”
The strategy will be reviewed regularly over the next five years to make sure it can adapt to changes in technology.