Fast chargers to boost north-eastern electric vehicle use

English regional development agency One North East is close to buying twelve 50kW rapid-charging stations for electric vehicles, as part of its strategy to boost e-vehicle use.

The rapid-charge stations will be installed on spine roads in the north east of England, said ONE's automotive & LCV specialist Sean Long. He said that the deadline for suppliers to express interest in the £250,000 scheme was approaching rapidly, and that the stations would be in place by the end of December.

The rapid-charge points deliver a higher voltage and can recharge a car in 15-20 minutes, versus six hours for the regular 3kW and 7kW versions, Long said. The aim is to relieve “range anxiety”, reassuring drivers that as well as using their e-vehicles for urban transport, they can also drive from Hull to Leeds, York or Sheffield, say, knowing that they will be able to recharge en route if necessary.

They will form part of a regional network of GSM-enabled charging stations – the aim is to have at least 619 publicly available by the start of 2011, rising to 1300 or more two years after that. Initially electricity will be provided free, but Long said that the aim is to move towards a subscription system with itemised billing.

Speaking at this week's Electric Vehicles Unplugged conference, organised by market research company Frost & Sullivan, he predicted that charging an e-vehicle would eventually cost about the same as a litre of fuel, and that site owners could use the availability of charging points as an incentive to visitors.

“Going forward, it could still be free of charge in places where people want you to visit, such as supermarkets or leisure centres,” he said.

ONE has £7.8m in funding and support for  its e-vehicle incentives. The project is supported by around 60 regional public and private sector partners - including Nissan, which will manufacture e-cars and batteries locally - and a grant of almost £3m from the UK government's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) under its Plugged-in Places scheme. The area is one of OLEV's three PiP trailblazers, alongside London and Milton Keynes.

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