Charging points for electric cars will be installed across Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, making the region one of the best plugged in the British Isles, the roads minister has said.
Danny Kennedy said more than 40 public charge points will be placed in car parks in six participating council areas by the end of March, with rapid charge points located on the roadside of a number of main routes.
He said there were plans to install further charging facilities during the year and urged other councils to come on board with the government's 'ecar' initiative.
The Ulster Unionist Regional Development minister told the Assembly that grants were also available for home and business owners to install charge points at their properties while those considering buying an electric car or van were eligible for a state subsidy.
Mr Kennedy said: "We are now at a stage where we can begin to install the infrastructure and over the next few weeks more than 40 public charge points will be installed in Belfast City Council, Newry and Mourne District Council, Armagh City Council, Derry-Londonderry Council, Larne District Council and Fermanagh District Council, with four rapid charge points to be installed at key locations on our strategic road network.
"These should all be on site by the end of March 2012."
The minister was responding to an Assembly question tabled by Sinn Fein South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey.
Mr Kennedy said the ecar consortium, which is led by his department and the Department of the Environment, had sought expressions of interest from councils not currently involved in the scheme with a view to locating more charge points across the region.
He added: "Delivery of this important project will ensure that Northern Ireland has access to one of the most comprehensive electric vehicle charging infra-structures on these islands."
Mr Kennedy acknowledged that electric car ownership was not yet common in Northern Ireland and said it was important that government encourage people to choose the eco-friendly mode of transport. "I think we will want to encourage uptake on this particular scheme," he said.