Respected futurologist Ian Pearson has forecast 2026 as the year in which the electric car will overtake its gasoline-powered counterparts in terms of sales.

His prediction is based on new research, published this week by Go Ultra Low, a U.K. government-funded organization for promoting greener motoring. It finds that today's 14-to-17-year-olds are already fantasizing about owning their first car, and that it is going to be of the electric, rather than the gas-powered variety.

When asked, 81 per cent of British 14-year-olds said that their first car would be electric. What's more, 88 per cent of all respondents said they believed more people should already be driving a hybrid or plug-in electric car in order to protect the environment.

"Young people are very aware of environmental issues and it is great that they also notice that electric cars will be cheaper to run, so it is a clear win-win," said Pearson. "Battery technology continues to improve, and the amount of resources needed to make an electric car will continue to fall. These technology developments will all add up, greatly reducing the environmental impact of cars while making them safer and cheaper. If current trends towards electric cars continue this means that, by 2026, demand for electric cars will almost certainly outweigh demand for 'traditionally fuelled' cars."

Presenting a "future technology" as a concrete reality

Although the environmental and financial benefits of an electric car are clear, presenting that message to the current generation of drivers is challenging, meaning that car companies need to go to great lengths to promote their greener offerings.

For example, on Wednesday, British luxury marque Aston Martin used a Chinese presidential visit to the U.K. in order to draw attention to its first plug-in electric car, the RapidE.

Across the Atlantic, Toyota went even bigger. As part of Back to the Future Day -- October 21, 2015 -- it hosted a special event where it unveiled an equally special version of its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It had been heavily customized to resemble the time-traveling DeLorean, made famous by the film, complete with gullwing doors.

"A piece of the future is now a reality with the Toyota Mirai," said Christopher Lloyd, the actor who played Doc Brown in the trilogy and who attended the event in California. "Compared to some other technologies predicted in the film, like rehydrated pizza or self-tying shoes, this technology has the real potential to change the world."

But if Pearson's forecast is accurate, such events will soon be consigned to the history books, and maybe with them, the internal combustion engine itself.