Belfast Telegraph

Belfast charges ahead with plug-in-and-go electric cars

By Linda Stewart

Electric cars could be commonplace on the streets of Belfast in the not too distant future.

The city is gearing up to become one of the first places in the UK to introduce the green initiative.

If a Northern Ireland bid is successful, charging points could be dotted around Belfast to pioneer plug-in cars.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: “We are also looking at the potential for Belfast to bid to be one of the six UK cities to plug in electric cars.

“That would create an opportunity for Northern Ireland to further develop the electric car industry.”

Some 11,000 charging points for electric cars are to be built in London, Milton Keynes and north-east England over the next three years, supported by £30m of Government money for the Plugged-In Places Scheme.

Three consortia will install charging points at locations such as supermarkets, public car parks and domestic streets.

A second wave of Plugged-In Places will follow later this year, with the West Midlands, Cornwall and Greater Manchester already confirmed bidders.

Mr Poots said: “The real benefit of an electric car is that it can be plugged in at night.

“And because that energy is being produced at night, it has a carbon neutral effect.”

He added: “Ultimately, the way forward for transportation in the United Kingdom will be that many more electric cars will use renewable energy and will not have the damaging impact on the environment that combustible engines have.”

Mr Poots said that Northern Ireland is working to drive up the amount of renewable energy which it uses.

The Government has also announced plans to subsidise the purchase of plug-in cars.

Buyers will be able to claim 25% of the up-front cost — capped at £5,000 — from the start of next year.

The full list of cars that will fall under the subsidy has yet to be fixed but it is likely to include the PSA models, the Vauxhall Ampera, which is due for launch in early 2012, and Toyota's next-generation plug-in Prius.

Pros and cons of volt vehicles

The advantages:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Car tax exemption
  • Faster acceleration
  • Are considerably quieter than petrol and diesel engine cars
  • Government plans to |introduce buying incentives:

Disadvantages

  • Cars are expensive
  • More expensive to run than conventional car
  • Batteries can take up to seven hours to charge
  • Few places to charge them
  • Certain batteries can overheat, causing a fire risk


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