An innovative project aimed at steering more people in Northern Ireland towards electric cars has been unveiled.
Stormont ministers Danny Kennedy and Alex Attwood joined forces yesterday to launch the ecar scheme, which will see a network of electric vehicle charging points installed in six towns and cities.
There are also plans for people to charge their cars while at work.
An electric car uses a battery-powered electric motor, effectively replacing the petrol or diesel engine as the means of moving the car. Experts claim it cuts down on carbon emissions and offers an important alternative to fossil fuel powered travel.
The ecar project, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, is investing more than £2m in electric vehicle infrastructure and will see charging points installed at various locations in the next two years.
Public charge posts will be installed in Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh, Newry, Enniskillen and Larne. Rapid chargers will also be placed near major motorways.
The ecar project will also explore opportunities to install charging points in workplaces and at home.
It is hoped the first charging points will be installed by the end of the year.
Speaking at the launch in Belfast, Mr Attwood said electric cars would bring many benefits to the environment. “The use of electric vehicles, ideally powered by electricity from renewable sources, is an excellent way to de-carbonise transport and contribute to our climate change, air quality and noise objectives,” he said.
“Increasing the use and popularity of electric vehicles will have a positive spin-off for the environment in Northern Ireland.
“The new brand and website will have a part to play in this.” Mr Kennedy said he hoped the project would help raise awareness.
“The launch of the ecar brand and website is another step in the process to help raise awareness of electric vehicles and from today ecar is the name of the pilot project that is bringing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to Northern Ireland,” he said.
The ecar brand is similar to the brand used in the Republic of Ireland, making it easier for electric vehicle users to recognise charging points across the island.