Hethel site launches regional electric car charging point network

The switch has been flicked on a new expanding network of electric car charging points which is set to provide drivers in the East of England with some of the best coverage in the country.

About 1,200 public charging points will be installed across the region by March 2013 under a single scheme called Source East, making it easier for electric vehicle owners to plug in while on the move.

The first stages of the network went live yesterday at Hethel Engineering Centre, near Wymondham, where Baroness Hanham, parliamentary under secretary of state at the department for communities and local government, was handed the first membership card.

By January, it is hoped that customers will also be able to use the Source London network, which will boast 1,300 charging points across the capital within the next two years, taking the country one step closer towards a UK-wide network.

Backers of the �7m scheme say Source East will not only boost the area's green credentials, but will also bolster the local economy through an increase in sales of electric vehicles and encourage the innovation of new products and services to ensure the future success of low carbon transport.

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Currently there are just two dealerships in Norwich selling the latest models, but project leaders added that major manufacturers had already touted the eastern region as a new location in which to look for new franchises.

Keith Bevis, managing director of EValu8-TI in charge of setting-up the network, said: 'Work on installing this network of smart charging points, aimed at making life smoother for the electrical vehicle owner, began in the spring.

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'The innovations that are being delivered already through this network will benefit the drivers, the environment and the economy of this region. This is just the start.'

Source East, which has been developed in conjunction with Hethel-based consultancy Future Transport Solutions, was awarded �3m through the Government's Plugged in Places initiative last year and �906,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

As well as 1,200 public charging points, the network will include 400 home chargers, 500 integrated chargers within new eco homes and nine public rapid chargers which could charge an electric vehicle in under 30 minutes.

When complete, the web of posts will stretch from the M25 to the north Norfolk coast, from the M1 to Felixstowe, with the aim of all businesses and residents being within 25 miles of a charging point.

Norwich is set to gain 84 public posts managed under Source East, with one at Hethel and a rapid charger at the Desira Nissan dealership in Vulcan Road already up and running.

Charging points at the Harford Park and Ride site, Busseys car dealership in Hall Road, City College, Norwich Airport and the Ecotech Centre in Swaffham will be ready soon.

Drivers simply have to hold up their membership card to the reader on the charge point and then plug in their vehicle. Annual membership will cost �100, but an introductory offer of �20 is currently available.

Trevor Stedman, operations director at Busseys which began offering the five-door hatchback Peugeot iOn six weeks ago, said the scheme would work in the favour of electric car retailers.

'This will be very, very useful for us. It will be a huge help to us in going forward with the electric cars,' he said.

'I think we have only scratched the surface at this stage. As more models come along, the battery technology is developed and we get up to 200 to 300 miles per charge you will see a real shift in the market and we need the infrastructure there.'

Baroness Hanham, who had been on a whirlwind tour of several projects across Norfolk supported by the ERDF, added: 'This is hugely exciting development and the whole low carbon industry around here does seem to be very inspiring.

'What's stuck with me from this part of the country is this huge entrepreneurial spirit and the huge feeling of excitement and enthusiasm and it bodes well for the future.'

For an updated map of Source East charging points, visit www.sourceeast.net

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