When fuel prices went through the roof this year, people began to look for alternatives to the car. One item, in particular, benefited - the electric scooter. With no sign of fuel prices coming down to their previous levels, the electric scooter looks set to rise in popularity and become the 'must have' Christmas present in 2008.

The main benefits of an electric scooter are the costs. In many places you do not have to pay road tax. In cities that have a congestion charge, an electric scooter is usually exempt. But the main cost benefit is the fuel - or lack of it. Most scooters cost a penny a mile to run. That means for a scooter that has a range of 40 miles, you are going to spend 40p (70 cents) to charge it. Compare that to the gas guzzler in the garage.

Also, the average speed of car journeys in large cities is dropping every year. This year in London it was measured at 10 mph because of the congestion. A scooter can easily weave around stationary traffic.

The typical electric scooter has a top speed of between 30 and 70 mph and can go for between 30 to 70 miles between charges, depending on the model you opt for. So while touring across country might still be out of the question, for a vehicle to move you about town quicker than a car can in congested cities, the electric scooter cannot be beat.

And they're great fun to ride. The first thing you notice is that there's no engine noise. There are no oily parts. It's so clean you could even ride it inside your own home.

So, which models will be high on shopping lists this Christmas?

Well, the top of the range is undoubtedly the Vectrix. This is the Rolls Royce of electric scooters. It has a top speed of 68 mph and a range of about 75 miles. It's the equivalent of a 250-400cc motorbike. The styling is sleek and the ride outdoes most other maxi-scooters. The only drawback is the price tag. A Vectrix will set you back somewhere around £6000 or about $8000. That's the same price as a car. But it is extraordinary machine and if you can afford it, you should at least try it out.

But what has really transformed the market is the availability of cheaper models. These have brought electric scooters to the masses.

In the States you can get the E-moto for around $2000. It has a top speed of about 30 mph and a range of around 35 miles. It's built to make light of city gridlocks and it great fun to ride. The advantage of having a scooter restricted to 30 mph is that, in many places, you can ride it on your existing driving licence. It depends on your location though.

In the U.K. the equivalent to the E-moto is the Ego Scoota. It can be picked up for only £999. It's similarly restricted to 30 mph and has a range of 40 miles. Although that's more than a traditional scooter (though not much more) you make up the difference in months because, remember, they are so cheap to run.

There are many other makes and styles out there so look around. But if you're looking for a less stressful, cheaper, more fun way to get around, you can't go wrong. Heck, in these environmentally aware times, Father Christmas might even buy one.