Plugging in to the electric revolution; Go-ahead for network of charge points.
ANETWORK of hundreds of charging points for electric cars will be created in the North East thanks to the region winning millions of pounds of Government cash.
A total of 1,300 plug sockets will be installed around the region over the next three years, on streets, in car parks, at homes, businesses, shopping centres and tourist attractions, in a pounds 7.8m project.
The aim is to lay the groundwork to make electric cars a viable option for families and commuters and to position the North East as a major player in securing Britain's low-carbon future.
The announcement comes as the Government unveils the North East as one of its first three "Plugged-In Places", along with London and Milton Keynes.
Alan Clarke, chief executive of One North East, said: "We are delighted the Government has chosen to support our bid and that we will help lead the national infrastructure programme. The roll-out of 1,300 electric vehicle charging points across our region now begins in earnest.
"The backing we have received from regional partners shows just how much enthusiasm there is in our region to grasp the opportunities available in the low carbon vehicle sector."
The man in charge of the roll-out of the charging points, Dr Colin Herron, One North East manufacturing and productivity manager, said: "This announcement points signals that the North East is ahead in Europe in the low carbon vehicle sector. We're serious about it and we're doing it.
"We have done a lot to establish ourselves as the new automotive region and the fact the Government has picked us for this funding says a lot."
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (Olev) will hand just under pounds 3m to regional development agency One North East, which itself will put in pounds 3.8m.
A further pounds 1m has been pledged by more than 40 councils, businesses and organisations in the region which want to install charging points at their premises.
The National Trust, which owns tourist attracting properties such as Wallington Hall and Cragside, and Northumberland National Park which incorporates Hadrian's Wall, have committed to donating money. They join Tesco, the MetroCentre, universities, Northumbria Police, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and all the region's councils in pledging cash to the scheme.
Of the 1,300 charging points installed in locations from Teesside to the Scottish Borders, 240 will be installed at private houses, giving families the chance to try an electric car and find out how easy it is to charge. A further 250 will be in car parks, 240 at offices, 90 in shop car parks and 50 at leisure centres. Some will be "rapid chargers", capable of filling a battery in just 20 minutes.
The aim is to have charging points at places to which people in the North East want to travel, giving motorists the confidence that the charging network is there if they buy an electric car.
The CBI in the region and the North East Chamber of Commerce have been working to drum up support from businesses.
Naomi Harris, CBI policy adviser on low carbon innovation and transport, said: "This is acknowledgement of the commitment shown by the North East as a region and an example of how the public and private sector have come together to work effectively to pull investment in.
"The development of this infrastructure will accelerate the roll-out of electric vehicles and show consumers that this isn't a pipe dream, it's a reality."
One North East has already signed up to install 619 charging points this year, as part of an agreement with Nissan. The first 22 are being rolled out by Newcastle City Council as part of a testing phase.
The agency is to leaving open the fund which offers companies and organisations match-funding for charging points, allowing them to install charging points at their premises for about pounds 2,500, half the standard price.
Comment 10 For more on our Great North Revolution campaign, go to www.journallive.co .uk/revolution
PLUGGED IN From left, Alan Clarke, chief executive of One North East, Paul Watson, chair of the Association of North East Councils, and Mitesh Dhanak, Eaga business development director with one of Eaga's electric cars