Brighton and Hove is delivering on green promises with the installation of its first electric car charging points. The city is the first place outside London to install them on public streets. Ten will be put in over the coming weeks and the first was installed in Bartholomews, in The Lanes, on Friday.
Manufactured by Elektromotive, based at the Sussex Innovation Centre in Brighton, they are at the business end of clean energy. But, with only three electric cars zipping around Brighton and Hove, questions have been raised about the battery-powered vehicles.
Elektromotive managing director Calvey Taylor-Haw, a passionate supporter of the electric car, said the chargers would pave the way for an electric revolution. He said: “It’s proven that if you put the infrastructure in it will encourage ownership.
“There aren’t cars available to buy at the moment but that will start changing next year.
“All the major car manufacturers will be introducing their electric car models to the market next year.
“In five years’ time, the roads will look much the same as they do today. But roads will be much quieter and there will be far less air pollution.
“The Department for Transport is saying there will be in the region of two million electric vehicles throughout the UK by 2020. Now Brighton has taken the first initiative, it won’t be long before other towns start to look at this.
“A lot of cities are starting to install the infrastructure.”
Mr Taylor-Haw defended Brighton and Hove City Council’s decision to install ten charging points across the city, despite there being a tiny number of electric cars on its roads. He said: “It’s a chicken and egg situation. We need the infrastructure in place before the cars come into the market.” At the moment, electric cars can travel about 100 miles on a full battery, which is fine for nipping across city centres but not so effective for long-distance journeys. However, according to Mr Taylor-Haw, developments in battery technology will improve the distances substantially. He said: “The 100-mile range is short term. With the advance of the batteries it won’t be long before the cars are doing a 200- mile range. “If someone wants a long-range car, they would opt for a plug-in hybrid car.”
The cars are much cheaper to run than those with petrol and diesel engines. According to Mr Taylor-Haw, a 10,000-mile journey in a traditional 900cc car would cost about £1,200. The electric equivalent would cost £200 to travel the same distance. But he concedes the cars would initially be more expensive because there would be a “slight premium” on the cars.
Critics have argued the electric cars aren’t as green as proponents claim, because electricity generation still relies heavily on burning fossil fuels. But Mr Taylor-Haw defends their environmental credentials. He explained: “When the power source is from a mix of renewable energy and a fossil-fuelled power station it is substantially greener than an equivalent-sized petrol or diesel car and that’s allowing for the carbon dioxide emitted during manufacture and transportation of the car to the customer.”
The city’s reputation for its environmentally aware residents makes it an ideal place to run an electric car scheme. Brighton and Hove has more Green Party councillors than any other city in the country and embraces schemes including car-free day and eco homes. Mr Taylor-Haw added: “The city has a reputation for being innovative. It’s good news for Brighton and Hove to start the ball rolling on this.”
Street chargers installed to motivate drivers to switch to electric, A G-Wiz electric car charging in London from a Juice produced by Elektromotive which is now installing similar on-street charging points in Brighton.
Not content with trying become self-sufficient in food, possibly electing the first Green party MP and weaning itself off oil as a Transition Town, Brighton & Hove is launching a bid to become one of the UK's most friendly cities for electric cars.
This week the city sees a major investment in electric car charging infrastructure, with the installation of four street-side charging stations and a further 16 completed by the end of 2010. The charging stations, which are vital to create a viable charging network for electric cars that mostly have a range of less than 100 miles, will reportedly be the first street-side points outside London.
The capital currently has more than 100 on-street charging stations, and in April mayor Boris Johnson said he wanted London to become the electric car capital of Europe with 25,000 stations and 100,000 electric vehicles. Other cities such as Bristol and Gateshead have existing public charging points but only in car parks.
Brighton-based charging company Elektromotive has already completed installation of the first four Brighton & Hove pilot sites. The first 10 stations will be paid for by £130,000 from clean transport initiative Civitas, which is part-funded by the EU.
Calvey Taylor-Haw, managing director of Elektromotive, said: "By encouraging drivers to switch to electric, Brighton will benefit hugely. There will be less air pollution and local residents will appreciate the quiet of electric vehicles. The installation of the bays will take place over a short period of time, providing electric vehicle users with rapid access to charging facilities."
The bays work with a standard mains plug and wireless key fobs that open the charging stations, which recharge cars within four to eight hours. Electric car owners will pay an annual fee to Brighton & Hove council for a registration scheme to access the network, pricing for which is unconfirmed but is expected to be in the region of £75-100 to join and £30-50 annually.
The scheme has come in for some criticism on The Argus local newspaper website, with users commenting on the fact that there are only three electric cars in the city. A fact confirmed by Taylor-Haw. Electric car owners, who already enjoy a 50% discount on parking permits for the city, will be able to use the bays from November when the council registration scheme opens.
Yesterday the secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Miliband, announced a £10m fund for local carbon-cutting initiatives such as charging stations, and earlier this summer the government said it would offer electric car buyers grants up to £5,000 to encourage take-up of the new technology.