To Hull and back – by electric car

Yorkshire consortium hopes to lead Britain with network of charging points

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It is the second most polluting area in Europe, with its power stations and heavy industry making it responsible for 13 per cent of carbon emissions in Britain. But Yorkshire is attempting to redress the balance by promoting a greener way of travel up hill and down dale.

A consortium is aiming to install a network of 800 electric car charging points across the county, primarily in Sheffield, Leeds, York and Hull but also on main trunk roads, motorways and at tourist attractions.

It is hoped it will encourage drivers to switch to electric cars, secure in the knowledge they are not going to find themselves stranded by a flat battery.

Rick Hamilton, from C0Sense Yorkshire, insisted that the White Rose county was already cutting edge when it came to eco-friendly initiatives. He said: "Yorkshire emits more carbon than any other region in Europe other than the Ruhr Valley in Germany and a lot of people recognise that this is the place where we ought to tackle it and sort it out. There is a lot of innovation in Yorkshire, an awful lot going on. What some companies are doing here will make a huge difference elsewhere."

The consortium is bidding for £6m of government funds and hopes to match the other half of the £12m cost of the project by raising money from private firms and major retailers.

"We are confident. It is a very strong bid. It links so many, large important conurbations and the region is strategically important for UK transport as it hosts a motorway network that reaches north to south as well as east to west," said Mr Hamilton.

If successful, the money will come from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, a cross-Whitehall government body, which has allocated £30m to encourage people to switch to electric cars and has already handed over funds to projects in London, Milton Keynes and the North-East.

C0Sense Yorkshire, the business development programme owned by Yorkshire Forward, is hopeful it could start work by the end of the year and have a large proportion of the network up and running within the year when the first mass market electric cars are expected.

"People are reluctant to buy electric cars (which have a range of 100 miles) unless they know that they'll be able to recharge them at their destination", said project manager Nicole Ballantyne. "So we aim to set up a network of charging points in the main cities in Yorkshire, so that anyone will be able to drive from Sheffield to Leeds, York or Hull, knowing that they will be able to recharge their cars once they arrive."

There are nearly 100 public charge points already available across the UK, meaning electric car drivers are not just limited to a short commute to and from the office.

The Government has announced it is supporting a nationwide network of charging points for electric and plug-in hybrids as part of a "full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy".

Electric cars currently account for 1 per cent of the 26 million vehicles in Britain. In April, Nissan announced that its Leaf, the first mass-market all electric model in Europe, would go on sale next year. At £28,350 (with a potential £5,000 discount promised by Labour although the Government scheme is now under review) they are not cheap but fans insist it costs just £1 to charge the battery which, combined with free vehicle excise duty, offers cheap motoring.

It takes about four hours to fully charge a car battery at a standard point but the Yorkshire plan aims to include rapid-charge technology on main roads, which cuts the time down to 90 minutes.

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